Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Holding Dreams...

Langston Hughes penned "Hold fast to dreams...." in the young years of the twentieth century, some time before Martin Luther King delivered his immortal speech in August of 1963. Today the dream of a nation will come to pass as we watch history in the making alongside the memorial of a man who proclaimed emancipation a century ago.

I have spoken of our responsibility as teachers to explain to our students that this day, this inauguration, is important because it represents the realization of those dreams to so many in our country. As a little girl who grew up in the South, I too have dreamed of a day when individuals are judged by attributes other than skin color.

When I was five or six, my family, like many others in the sixties, owned only one car. My mother would deliver my Daddy to work each morning, and we would repeat the trip in the afternoon to pick him up. Every day on our return home, we would stop at the same stop sign, at the same intersection, and wait for traffic. To the left of that intersection was a house, and outside of the house, a little Black girl played every afternoon. I would always rest my chin on the edge of the open window and look at her, hoping that one day she would wave at me, maybe be my friend. For months she didn't look my way. But every day I would stare at that little girl and her toys and wish that I could just jump out of my car and run to her and make a friend.

Finally one day I looked her way and she looked up. I smiled at her. Then...she gave me some nonverbal communication - the finger kind.

My face fell. My heart was broken. For years I couldn't understand why that little girl was mad at me when I didn't even know her. But as I grew older, I began to understand. I read books like Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and I knew what had made that little Black girl so angry at a little White girl like me.

My hope is that, as adults, that little girl and I have chatted in some grocery store line or have shared a smile in the shopping mall. Maybe I've taught her kids; maybe she's taught mine. Nevertheless, we are in a different world now, chronologically a long way from the 1960's, even if there are times when, emotionally, we are still close to those days. It is my hope that the events of today will help close that huge divide, that little girls of all colors will wave...and smile...and play together.

Dan Fogelberg sings a song entitled "Same Old Auld Lang Syne." The lyrics tell of a man who runs into a former girlfriend on Christmas Eve when the snow is falling. The last line is "and as I turned to make my way back home, the snow turned into rain." I've always enjoyed the metaphorical intent of that line, realizing that the image of snow and its clean, quiet peacefulness is contrasted to the dreary, repetitious rain.

I've just endured a weekend full of rain. I've walked my dog and returned soggy and shivering for three days. But today I woke to falling snow and a bright sun shining on a crisp, beautiful lawn. That experience, and the events of this day, remind me of another poem by Langston Hughes, "A New Song."

...the past

is done.

A new dream flames

against the sun.

We welcome a new dream to the Presidency of the United States and a new dream to Americans, of all colors and creeds. Perhaps we can finally say "United We Stand," and it will be true.


Anonymous said...

"...the past is done.
A new dream flames against the sun."

As a nation in the last couple of months we have fallen down an economic rabbit hole that we never saw coming, only to find ourselves united by a hopefulness that few would have thought possible. All the rules seem to be changing. That might be scary if I didn't see it through the eyes of the next generation. Isn't life strange and amazing?

loonyhiker said...

I have felt a sense of hope and optimism since the inauguration and I hope that it continues and succeeds.