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Sunday May 26th 2019

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That's what she said

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What Does It Mean for You?


By

Imagine — imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us — we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

President Obama in Tuscon, 1/12/11

Lanie and Evie at a school board meeting

Photo courtesy Joshua Lawton, April 8, 2008, http://flic.kr/p/4E2yY2

I’m a little embarrassed to write about my personal life on the Blue Line, but the events of last weekend and President Obama’s moving speech last night have prompted Americans, including me, to reflect on our communication styles, on our civic involvement, and on our obligations to our children.

Like many people, the president’s speech had me both crying and cheering, but watching and listening to the passage quoted above destroyed my composure completely.  It was the image of Christina Taylor Green’s quietly sobbing mother looking desperately to the president for some kind of salvation from her pain combined with his eloquent expression that Christina’s life was worth nothing less than a national effort to change the way we communicate that was so potent.  When he started talking about Christina I was apprehensive that he might not hit the right note, that he might not deliver the words that would do her life and her parents’ loss justice.  But for me, he got it just right.

I’ve got two daughters whose ages exactly bracket Christina’s. I have dragged those poor kids to BVSD Board meetings, City Council meetings, Planning Board meetings, petition gathering in front of King Soopers, and door-to-door flyer distribution, more for lack of baby sitters than from a lofty desire to expose them to the democratic process.  But they’re getting it anyway.  They’re getting it that some things are worth taking a stand, that it feels good to work for things you believe in, and that even if you lose, you don’t give up.  But the president’s speech reminded me that they may also be getting another, less hopeful message from me:  that our opponents are bad people, that people who don’t share our views are our enemies.  I know I’ve been guilty, when trying to simplify a political issue for my kids, to reducing the players to good guys and bad guys, us and them.  It’s ugly and corrosive, especially to their little sponge brains.  I’ve been particularly culpable of pretending to know what motivates other people, when in fact I don’t really know what’s driving people at all.

The president has asked us to change the way we communicate, especially with our political opponents.  I’m going to try to keep that message alive in my own life.  And, I’m going to work harder to explain things to my kids in a way that focuses on the issue more than on the player.  I want to do everything I can “to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

How did the president’s speech affect you?  Please feel free to comment or send in an article of your own.

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One Response to “What Does It Mean for You?”

  1. Seth Brigham says:

    Attempt a fresh new start.

    I’ve never used violent rhetoric but I think I’ll will attempt to temper my anger towards the decisions and action of our City Council.

    And, showing up for the march on Martin Luther King Day in Boulder might be a good way to start my monday.

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