Saturday, November 8, 2008

The First Family - "We are growing up"

As an English teacher, who adores Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, I was thrilled when Angelou wrote "The Pulse of Morning," the Inaugural poem for Bill Clinton and saddened when Morrison endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton earlier this year.

However, now as the historic election of Barack Obama begins to sink in, I went back to read Angelou's poem and Morrison's letter again. In today's blog entry, I wanted to highlight a few parts of Morrison's letter and give us all a chance to share Angelou's response to the election of Barack Obama, who truly is, with all due respect to Bill Clinton, America's first black President ...

Dear Senator Obama,

... of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.
... Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."
In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.
When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?
Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.
There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.
Good luck to you and to us.
Toni Morrison

It seems only fitting to bookend Toni Morrison's words at the start of Obama's historic campaign with Maya Angelou's words the day after his election. (The whole video is certainly worth watching, but Maya kicks in at 3:12 in case you're feeling impatient :-)

To echo my dear friend Mark's sentiments - I am more proud to be an American today than I have ever been. And that's saying something.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Modest Hope?

I felt the need to revisit my amberwaves blog this morning, to visit in my memory the many wonderful states where there are disappointed citizens awaking this morning. Maybe it was the fact that we took this amazing trip in the midst of the seemingly never-ending election season that enabled me to experience this election on a different level than those that have come before.
Or maybe it's the fact that, as I have gotten older and live in an increasingly complicated and complex world, I am not able to so easily separate those around me into red and blue, wrong and right. I have had more disagreement with people I love and with whom I hold the same political beliefs during this election than I ever have had before.
And, looking back, I realize this is because I have changed. Perhaps it was the trip through Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah - red states all - and the chance to interact with "those people" who are as skeptical of us as we are of them. Perhaps it is the fact that some of my dearest friends, great people of strong character, voted for McCain this year. Perhaps it is that my students fall evenly into two camps, each articulating its position with grace and clarity.
Regardless, I found myself arguing for Obama when I was among the die-hard McCain supporters, and defending McCain when I was among the die-hard Obama supporters. And I found myself more and more comfortable being able to take either position. Now clearly I have my opinion. I am a registered Democrat, contributed to both Clinton's and Obama's campaigns, wore the pins, donated my status, voted the ticket.
But I am proud today not that Obama won (which is wonderful) but that I talked to people during this election season. And I listened. I tried to be the change I wish to see in the world. It didn't always feel good, but it always felt right.
As I look at the photo above and reflect on all the Main Streets across this great nation, I have hope. I feel certain that Obama will reach out to every American. I just hope that every American is equally willing to reach out to one another.