Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day for America

I wanted the girls to understand what was happening today. I sought to somehow express the immense historical significance of what they would be seeing.

It started over a year ago, when we began to watch one of my favorite TV shows, "Quantum Leap," in which Dr. Sam Beckett traveled through time, "setting right what once went wrong." In one particularly powerful episode, Sam "leaps" into the body of Jesse Tyler, a black servant in 1955 South, and gets into trouble when he dares to sit down in a "white folks" diner.

After we watched that episode, I told the girls how it used to be -- how people were segregated by their skin color, forced to attend different schools, eat in different restaurants, drink from different fountains. I explained that brave people in that time stood up and resisted these "traditions", and sought to bring equality to all people.

In fourth grade Meikina prepared a paper on Rosa Parks, a woman who refused to sit at the back of the bus. They also discussed Martin Luther King, and how he rallied African Americans to the boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama buses, a boycott that changed the tide of racism in America.

At dinner over the past year we have had frequent discussions about the Presidential campaign, what the main issues were, what Obama meant when he said he wanted to bring "Change" to America. Each of my girls in turn cast their vote in their school election for Barack Obama, and we all rejoiced as he was elected the 44th President of the United States.

Last night, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birthday, we sat and listened to his amazing speech, "I have a dream." As I listened once more to the words of Dr. King in that speech, I could not help think about two-year old Barack Obama, unaware that he would one day rise to fulfill King's dream: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Today, we are much closer to that dream, but progress must still be made.

And so this morning we didn't go to school at 8:00am as we usually do. Instead we gathered around our TV and, like children in Kenya and Indonesia, and millions of families across this country, we watched as President Obama raised his hand to the square, and with his other hand placed on the Bible used by Abraham Lincoln, repeat the oath of the Presidency. Hard as I tried, I could not hide the tears -- tears of joy, tears of pride, and tears of redemption.