(This piece was originally sent as an email to friends and family on the 2008 morning after seeing candidates Obama and Clinton in Unity, NH. My 12-year-old son took the photos.)
~for the children
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Dear Community of ALL,
Yesterday, I had the great privilege of attending a political rally in Unity, New Hampshire. I use the word “privilege” because I could afford the time, the energy and the gas it took to devote an entire day to this journey. I also had the privilege of the company of my two young sons, Aidan 7 and Lloyd 12.
It was my sons’ enthusiasm “to see Obama” that fueled this endeavor for me. Despite being born in the sixties, I grew up with little inclination to participate politically. As a young adult, in a county that voted overwhelmingly Republican, focusing on money and power, I found politics disconnecting and depressing. When I moved to Vermont at age 29 that began to change. In Vermont, almost everything (but snow) was on a small enough scale that I could manage the attention and faith it took to begin to get involved. Vermont’s Town Meetings were my springboard. Political humans like Bernie Sanders and Jim Jeffords were accessible and worthy.
Though I don’t think I’m hardwired to fully engage in the political process, I began to hope for my own sons. They attended town meetings with me, ate a chicken supper beside Bernie, and participated in walking with his senate campaign down Main Street in the 4th of July parade. Lloyd and Aidan showed more interest in politics in their short lives than I had in my entire life. In fact, much of their sand play with peers at South Pond was politically based. And the day I told that Obama and Hillary were going to be in New Hampshire–less than 2 hours away–they gave an enthusiastic, “Let’s go!” That was all I needed to take the next step to get the tickets and pack us up for my first national campaign event.
I lack the political savvy to know all the reasons why I shouldn’t have been inspired by Senators Clinton and Obama, and I never will possess it. My mind just doesn’t operate that way. I am much more interested in the internal politics of our own hearts and spirits than I am driven by what happens on the outside with others. That said, I do want to be part of the change, and like Gandhi, I also want to “be the change” that I want to see in the world rather than complain it doesn’t exist. And though I have never been very politically minded, I have always had a passion for history, and a deep fascination and regard for the spirit of this country–for our Declaration of Independence and the possibility of freedom we created in it. 9/11 was for me and for many others, in the face of calls for war, the spiritual “bottom” of my political experience. It left me wanting to disown this country once and for all, and it also caused me to realize just how much I loved this big bully. I grew up, politically speaking, around 9/11. I began to realize that my participation or lack of it played a part; and that for whatever reason, I was tied up in this country–in its identity and actions.
After the drive to Charlemont, New Hampshire with my boys in the early morning yesterday we boarded shuttles to Unity. On the bus, I explained to my older son–and to myself–what a “leader” was all about. “It’s like one of those amazing teachers you hear about,” I said, “like that guy in Los Angles that took that poorly performing class and made them math wizards. Those kids were disconnected, self-absorbed, criminal, disenfranchised–and rightly so… And it wasn’t as much about the teacher’s greatness,” I said, “But that inside each of those students was greatness and he helped them find it. He lead them to it. He created a place of belonging for them. He believed in them. He inspired them to their own strengths and greatness. That’s what this country needs in a President.”
As I finished my speech, I noticed that my son’s nose was back in his graphic novel. But once at the rally, under the bright afternoon sun, surrounded by trees and fields, Hillary and Obama echoed my voice–albeit in their political speech writing ways. She said that it wasn’t about one person, that it was about the change we wanted to create.He said that his hope lies in the faces of all of us, in our basic decency and caring. For me–seeing them together like that–two leaders–male and female–black and white–I felt complete. I don’t know if these two beautiful people have the answers, but I do know that the answers lie inside of us–inside each of us. I discover that every time I work with someone in my role as a life coach.
My hope, and the reason why I bought my very first bumper sticker (that says “HOPE”), is that these two people can lead us to our own inspiration to change. It pains me and I know it pains each of you that we live in a world where children are hungry. It brings me to tears that I don’t know what to do about it. It anguishes me that great suffering is happening on “my watch” while I eat my organic cereal and type on my laptop to you. “NOT ON MY WATCH!” I want to scream, but I don’t know where to direct my voice and my energy and my passion. So many of you have that clarity. I see you act on behalf of others in so many ways. Social and political activism have never had that clarity for me. But I am a writer and a thinker and connector, and that is what I have to offer to make the change.
We don’t have to do everything. We don’t have to be good at everything…”You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves,” writes Mary Oliver. That’s why there’s so many of us, to make it easier. Our talents and interests and gifts blend like circles on a beautiful hand-sewn quilt. Let’s get stitching so that we can cover this world with a blanket of warmth, and food, and protection, and safety.
I know I am idealistic. That’s how I came. And I know that many of you know much more about the process because you’ve actually been participating for a lot longer. But maybe there’s a place for me to inspire you with my naivety and heartfelt conviction.
I know our leaders are imperfect, but is that where we want to focus our attention? This country and its ideals never would have come to fruition if we had focused solely on the imperfections of our forefathers.
And I know this country isn’t perfect either. The history books are filled with our sins against humanity.
But there’s also a light, and that’s what I want to follow and help grow.
I see the light of hope in my children. They each wanted an Obama t-shirt that showed his face in the colors red, white and blue with the word, CHANGE, below it. My oldest wondered why I didn’t buy the “CHANGE” bumper sticker. I explained that I couldn’t put one man’s face on my car–but I could put the word “HOPE” out about him–appreciating that my sons’ would be the change.
That morning, ahead of the rally, the three of us stood under a hot sun in a parking lot at a race track in New Hampshire–waiting for the school bus that would take us to UNITY–to the playground of an elementary school–where the groundskeeper in suspenders was crowned “honorary mayor” for the day, and introduced not one–but two candidates, that I had respected for President.
Behind us in that shuttle line of hundreds, stood two elderly women, who looking around them at all the young people, said with pride, “This is our future.”
On the return bus ride to the racetrack after the rally, I looked at all the folks around me– in front of me and behind me–and I thought, This is my country: the elderly man with Parkinson’s across from me, the college students laughing in front of me, and the family of 4, behind me.”
I’m not writing to tell you to believe in Obama or even that I do, but I believe in us, and I know that we need a leader to bring the change that we need in this world—not cheaper groceries or gas prices for us–but provision for all and stewardship for the blessing of this earth.
At the end of this long day, the boys and I raced home to the pond. I wished Hillary and Barack could join us. I’m sure they needed the swim more than we did, and I would have liked to see them out of their suits enjoying the gift of Vermont.
But alas, they have a different dharma…
No doubt, they’re off on a plane to do more of what they did in Unity–more speeches, more politics. God bless them.
I find myself praying for Obama and his family, that they would be safe from the dangers of this world so that our country might be led by a man who I saw to be “good.”
Obama stood, not more than 6 heads in front of me, and I took him in–not his words or his plan–but his spirit. That’s what I went to see.
I had to wake my boys before 7 in order for us to be there on that field when Clinton and Obama stepped out of the newspapers and into the world. Now that it’s summer, Aidan is the hardest to wake. But when I said to his shut eyes, “Aidan, today is the day we go see Hillary and Obama,” he jumped out of bed like it was Christmas.
By noon, under that hot sun, in a crowd of thousands, he broke down in tears, begging to find any way to get back home. Lloyd and I created a little world under a beach towel for him and he found his strength to go on.
Though they were only 15 feet ahead of us, Aidan could only see Hillary and Obama when I lifted him up on my shoulders. He spent most of the time on the ground, half the size of those around him–but he said that he was glad he came.
And when we got to the pond, he told his cousin all about the rally with pride. And to my surprise, my older son’s classmates were enthralled that we had gone to the rally and ran to find him to see these photos he took and to hear about it.
My popularity index as a parent immediately rose, having plummeted the week before when I was not among those many Marlborians who made sure their kids found a television to watch the night-long Celtics win. “You put us all to shame” said a father about the journey I made with my boys.
“They were our community representatives,” a mother clarified.
I have great hope that this beautiful man of color and character might be our country’s representative.
My husband tells me that both Michelle and Barack Obama made the maximum individual contribution to Hillary’s indebted campaign the other night, and that Barack has asked his supporters to donate what they can to offset her great debt.
Today, I’ll make my first ever direct financial contribution to a political campaign at a national level to both Hillary and Obama. I like the feeling of supporting his campaign and supporting Hillary with hers that has ended. I like the spirit of it.
That’s what drew me to Unity, New Hampshire yesterday morning–the spirit of it.
And did you know that the school groundskeeper that introduced Hillary and Barack, was a Republican?
United we stand, divided we fall. My greatest hope is that we can co-create a world and a country that we are proud to call our home–and that when our time comes to leave this place, we can say that on “our watch” unity and beauty prevailed.
Do I believe a political leader can provide the change we want to see in the world?
But I hold great hope that we can co-create it with his leadership.
Help us to be the always hopeful
Gardeners of the spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light