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.
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.