"...if our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us need to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
As President Barack Obama gave his Farewell Address last week, I didn't want to listen. It would be too hard, but this man,this family, this administration, has meant too much to me, so I sat with my Kleenex box at the ready. The first President I have any memory of was Richard Nixon, and that memory was his resignation speech...thus my political socialization was formed. With the Obamas came the very first time that I could look at a President, look to the symbol of the office, and feel truly proud to walk as an American. A man who faced obstruction at every turn yet who led with a grace and a dignity almost unseen in our history. The overwhelming challenges he inherited on day one: a country on the verge of collapse embroiled in economic disaster and multiple wars, an unrelenting Washington establishment that vowed to block his every move from the moment he was elected simply because he was Barack Obama, the unmatched expectations that lay on his shoulders as the "The First"-all meant that this President was never going to win within a partisan planet. There is never perfection in politics, a system that rewards patronage not need, rarely leaves room for the Hope he promised. There is always disappointment, mistakes, but when this country faced horror, sadness and challenges it was THIS man that we looked to for assurance and comfort. With intelligent caring thought, humor, style, and grace he let us hope. We will not have that again-and perhaps it is that void that hurts the most. Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe and Jill Biden have shown us how it can, and should be done! Michelle Obama has redefined what the role of FLOTUS is in an age when women's voices and challenges,especially for young girls, need a champion. Her graceful heart brought meaning to the role that had been strictly ceremonial since the days Eleanor Roosevelt was "her husband's legs". She opened the doors of her home, America's home, to everyone. She has been a beacon of promise for so many. Her work for girls all over the world, showing them they deserve and have a right to any future they can envision. Encouraging all kids to believe they could and should have an education. Michelle Obama literally got dirt under her fingernails as she worked everyday for America's kids. With Joe Biden as his true partner, Barack Obama worked to help this country transition to a new world-one that holds promise and fear. A world that means truly being in and of the world-not isolating ourselves or turning our backs on so many that look to this country to lead. Change is painful, and as economies change and society changes people cling to only what they have known-I get that...but going backward, to a world that doesn't welcome, that segregates, that discriminates is horrifyingly dangerous. So as I listened to his "goodbye", there were so many memories-his tear laden face on the night of Newtown, his voice at the Charleston Church, the joy of watching him with kids, his heart, his calm and control and ability to literally turn the other cheek, his humor and intelligent cool ...too many moments, and a frustration beyond words for what he could not change. His speech last week in Chicago,however, as always, inspired and brought me to tears. It also left me with a promise of the Hope he instilled, his optimism and belief that "we're going to be OK", that the fundamental core of this country is good. May he continue to be the crossing guard, the gate holder, the indomitable guide to decency, courage, indomitable cool, and always a real leader standing with every citizen with a dignity and grace that made us proud. THIS is the voice we will need, the one we must listen to even when all we want to do is hide under the bed. Thank you to MY President.
"...democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued, they quarreled, and eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity. The idea that, for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together, that we rise or fall as one..."
"But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change"
"We have to pay attention and listen."
“The hope of folks like my dad, who got up every day to do his job at the city water plant, the hope that one day his kids would go to college and have opportunities he never dreamed of,” Mrs. Obama said. “That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers, all of us — need to be providing for our young people, because that is what moves this country forward every single day.” Michelle Obama
“Our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths, and colors, and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are; it makes us who we are...So to the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anybody make you feel like you don’t matter or like you don’t have a place in our American story because you do, and you have a right to be exactly who you are...Lead by example with hope, never fear...
And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and
working to support you for the rest of my life.”
First Lady Michelle Obama
"So regardless of the station we occupy; we all have to try harder; we all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family just like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own."
"The peril(s)... to our democracy is more far reaching than a car bomb or a missile. They represent the fear of change. The fear of people who look or speak or pray differently. A contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable. An intolerance of dissent and free thought. A belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right."
"Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power. We, the people, give it meaning — with our participation, and with the choices that we make and the alliances that we forge."
"...that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when you own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life...
... If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes
and do some organizing.
and do some organizing.
...If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.
...Show up, dive in, stay at it.
My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days...
...But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.
...I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change
— but in yours.
— but in yours.
...I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:
Yes, we can.
Yes, we did.
Yes, we can."