Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Era

Today is a day that we will tell our grand children about and they will tell theirs. Whatever your political beliefs, today is a momentous day in history. I am proud to say that both of my children watched the inauguration while in school today.

I heard one of the reporters post inauguration say, very poorly I might add, and I paraphrase, "the negative thing about today is that people may forget what it used to be like". I immediately said to my husband, "what does he want? To keep the segregation so we won't forget?" I am also happy to say that Todd came home for lunch and together we watched President Obama's speech. His response was "that wasn't what he meant". While this may be true, it got me thinking.

President Obama said, "Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

It is my greatest hope that now that we have an African American president we won't become complacent and forget that there is a still a huge amount of bigotry and injustice in our country, not yet the world. I would hope that it isn't thought that will erase the years of slavery and segregation. Nothing can erase it. The only way we can not let people forget is by teaching our children. I imagine that some people wonder about teaching their children of these injustices. Is it better to bring it to their attention? I feel it is the best thing. Producing intelligent dialog with our children about the mistakes of the past is one way to teach them what to do in our future.

Last year my youngest (neurotypical) son and I went to the movies when we were "up north". We walked to the little movie theater down the block. I took him to "Hairspray" because he likes musicals and I thought he'd love the songs. I hadn't thought about the racial overtones of the movie. It was confusing him, so during the movie I would lean over and try to explain what was happening. I'd say things like "back in the 50's and 60's a white girl didn't date an African American", "back then they didn't have African American's on tv" etc etc. When the movie was over we walked outside into the cool clear evening which is so lovely in northern Michigan. My 7 year old turned and looked at me full of emotion and outrage and said, "do you mean to tell me that people couldn't be friends with each other because of the color of their skin??!!" He was so morally outraged and I was so proud.

We talked about it the whole way home. Mother and son strolling down a neighborhood street on vacation talking about racial injustice. Without meaning to I had opened a whole new world to him. One outside of his safe East Lansing boundaries. One that once you know it, you can't turn back on it. He did not like what he saw, and I was so thrilled that he didn't.

He came home from school today and asked me, again, if I dvr'd the inauguration. I told him I did. He said, "good, we watched it at school today, but some kids kept talking. I was concentrating on the speech because I was not about to miss one second of that speech!" They talked about past presidents in class, and due to his vast knowledge, his 3rd grade teacher had him answer most of the questions!
While I am so incredibly proud of our country, we need to remember to teach our children why this is so historic and in the words of President Obama, "why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath." I am thankful for this reminder. At the beginning of a new era, we must not ever forget the past.


Mama Mara said...

Still crying and getting goosebumps every time I think about today. It was amazing! And while the breakdown of the race barrier is a tremendous thing, what excites me most is that I feel we have a true leader in Barack Obama. As he said, it is time for us to "put away childish things"; to make the sacrifices and do the hard work we've been neglecting for so long. It's about time!

annie said...

Amen, sister! "Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it." i don't see any of us (or our kids) forgetting any time soon.

Beck said...

Beautifully said by both our new president and you!

Michelle S. said...

Thanks ladies! And thanks to President Obama for bringing hope and leadership back to our country. I pray he can live up to all of this!!

Michelle S. said...

Thanks ladies! And thanks to President Obama for bringing hope and leadership back to our country. I pray he can live up to all of this!!