Friday, January 23, 2009

Kathleen: Cry For Happy

The images we've been seeing this week have been so powerful, I can hardly express myself. I promise not to talk politics, but I need to speak about what I've experienced and invite others to do the same. I'll start us off with a personal moment that fairly blew me away.

I think what impressed me the most about the images was the children, and thinking about the changes I've wanted foe them. You know, world peace, equal opportunity, tolerance, respect and dignity for all, what used to be pie-in-the-sky bleeding heart cliche. This week the sea of happy faces of all races--2 million strong on the Capitol mall--validated the dream. Not that there isn't a ton of work to do still, but we're still willing to to carry the torch. Keep the faith. Do the right thing. Teach the children well.

One anecdote from the Eagle household, and then over to you. On Monday, my first grade granddaughter's homework assignment was to write about something Martin Luther King, Jr. had given Americans and to draw a picture to illustrate. The class had seen a video, and they'd been reading and drawing all week, and this was the moment of truth. So we talked a little bit, but she knew exactly what she wanted to say. "How do you spell peace?" We sounded it out. "How do you spell harmony?" We sounded it out. "Martin Luther King, Jr. gave America peace and harmony."

Okay, Nana wants a little more. How did he do this. What did he say? Remember the marching, the-- "That's all I want to write, Nana. I'll show you in the picture."

So here's the picture. I thought she was drawing a door at first. She wrote "Whites Only." I was surprised. Puzzled. This is a 6-year-old, mind you. She drew the rest of the water fountain and an X over the two ugly words. Then she drew another water fountain and some people. She took a picture she had made earlier in the week of MLK and drew his head again. (We were watching news coverage of Monday's events, and she took the suit from the news guys. Pretty good, huh?)

Once she had shown me, she proceeded to tell me that in the old days, not everybody could drink from the water fountain. Now we can. I told her that I remembered the old days, and that when I was 6 years old, I saw those signs. Even then I knew it was wrong. Two generations later, with millions of people making their mark, adding bits and pieces--a word here, a deed there--and the picture is changing. America is a work in progress, and this little girl will be part of the evolution. In a good way, as the Lakota people say. On Tuesday night, my 4-year-old granddaughter saw what I was watching (for the Nth time and still smiling) and said, "Oh, we saw this on TV today. Barack Obama is our president now." They watched the inauguration in preschool!

I'm fascinated with history. I love to think about the journey, and how each generation takes a few steps. I'm blown away by the steps we took this week and the fact that we really did this together. So--this is a story you'll tell your grandchildren-- Where were you when America celebrated the inauguration of our 44th president?

For my part, I was reminded of a movie from my childhood (Glen Ford was a big favorite of mine) called "Cry For Happy." I do it all the time these days.


Playground Monitor said...

Actually, I was taking advantage of a spa day the DH gave me for Christmas. When I made the appointment, I just didn't realize it was inaugural day. And by the time I realized it, I'd booked up the rest of the week and couldn't re-schedule. Since I'm going on vacation tomorrow, I especially wanted the mani/pedi.

BUT, I taped it all on my DVR and rushed home to watch. All those people!!!!! They braved bitter cold to watch this.

I remember seeing the fountains at the department store downtown. One said "White" and the other said "Colored." I distinctly remember asking my mother why on earth they said one was colored when the outside was clearly painted white. Someone was obviously colorblind. The innocence of youth, huh?

Thankfully my boys did grow up colorblind. We live in a city that's very multi-cultural because of the space program, the military, the universities and the research park. I've had kids of all colors and ethnicities at my kitchen table, and I think my sons are better people for having been exposed to this. When they were in grade school, the school encouraged parents to share their heritage with their child's class, so we ate Indian food, celebrated Chinese New Year and learned about Ramadan to name a few.


flip said...

I was working, but the entire office listen to his speech. What I love is the reaction of the children to the new president. They are so positive.

This news clip of children from around the world is too, too cute.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Marilyn, I grew up in the military and started school in Idaho, little town just outside an AF base--with integrated school. But the last couple of months of 1st grade we went to Mongomery, AL for TDY (temporary duty) and what a difference, even for a little kid. It was early 1955, and we all know what happened in '54. I have such vivid memories of those couple of months in first grade--the only time I ever hated school. The black school was on the other side of the fence (toppied with barbed wire) and I asked why. It's not easy being the only kid in class who "talks yankee" and asks why.

I was born in VA, and I remember the lunch counters, the signs over the bathrooms, water fountains, etc. I asked why. I celebrate my parents for the steps they took to put me ahead of them on the road toward freedom. It's freedom for "whites" as well. Bigotry, intolerance and ignorance create a prison for those who think that way. We've taken baby steps over the course of generations, but the seeds were planted by forefathers who saw the light and knew that it was a long tunnel and a hard journey ahead. They made a start and passed the torch.

Oh, Lord, I get to talkin' so romantic!

Kathleen Eagle said...

That's Montgomery and topped and whatever else. Fingers can't keep up when I'm all philosophical and starry-eyed.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. I'm 25 now. So I can only go based on what history and videos tell me. I can only see what my grandmother and my grandfather saw--but only through their eyes. Every time I see Barack Obama, I cry. Partially tears of joy and partly tears of sorrow.

Tears of sorrow in that it took the United States this long to do something like this. It took our great grandparents, our grandparents, and your parents to put us on this path--and they had their great grand, and grand, etc to do it for them. When all of this could have been avoided since the beginnings.

Tears of joy because it was my generation that stood up and said, "Yes, We can!" and we did! I also have tears of joy because the other generations stood behind us, propped us up and helped us say those words.

Now..everytime i see MLK or his speech, or even President Obama--and how wonderful it is to say those words--I have a smile on my face.

From my generation, to those that came before me--all I can say is thank you.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Lou, I love your post! My youngest kid is 29. In recent months when I've had visits from door-knockers and calls from phon-bankers, so many of them have been either from my generation or yours. (I did quite a bit of volunteering, too. Mostly phone-banking and minding the office headquarters while the office staff went door knocking.) One afternoon last summer two college students came to the door, and I told them I was already on board and that I was so glad to see their enthusiasm, just for getting involved in the process. I told them that we Boomers were looking to pass the torch, as JFK said to our parents. My visitors said, "You guys are still going strong. Don't you even talk about retirement. You're our role models."

Those guys left me grinning from ear to ear. And now you've got me doing it again. Power to the people, Lou!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oops. To be clear, JFK said that the torch was being passed TO our parents.

Playground Monitor said...

>>That's Montgomery

Many of the locals pronounce it "Mungumry" so your misspelling isn't far off.

Candace said...

The dh and I were at home all day, glued to the TV. We popped champagne at fives minutes past noon and toasted America, our new president, and the renewal of hope he has brought to all of us.

Cindy Gerard said...

I watched most of the day. It was an astounding site to see all of those people on the mall. The girls were adorable!!

Helen Brenna said...

I was at my computer working, caught the highlights on the news that night.

I'm excited for our country. And the world!!!

lunaticcafe said...

I shared this event with my family from the start of the election process all the way to the inauguration. My 9 year old son was especially involved and did the kid voting events at school. He even used my sample ballot to mark his choices. On election night he kept a tally of the electoral votes and I will keep that forever- he was too cute and so serious.

For the inauguration we spent time as a family watching all the events. The kids got to watch at school and I took the day off work so that I would not miss a single thing. I cried many tears throughout the day but they were happy tears. Our society has taken a giant step towards change and acceptance- it makes me very proud to think that maybe things won't be so bad. someday these things will just be a sad part of our history.

On a side note: My little brother, who is not so little anymore, was part of the Army Honor Guard that marched in the parade. It was thrilling to see him, on TV no less, march past the new President.

Debra Dixon said...

I'm very happy with the prospects for the future. Yep. It'll be hard. It sucks. Lots to do and all that.

But this event was historic and signaled to the rest of the world that we do get it right. That we do make progress and that tolerance is something to practice. Not something to which we aspire.

Having said that, I'm not so big on the "spectacle" and the "grandeur of change." I think about hungry children and how much those balls cost. I'm sure lots of people who study these things and know a great deal more than I will tell me that the ceremony is necessary and cements the change in our thinking, creates a foundation from which we can move forward. That the event needs to be marked to remind us of how important it is, blah blah blah. (g)

Of course this comes after walking by the television and seeing the Merrill Lynch guy they fired spent $19k on a pedestal and $68K on a piece of furniture. A cabinet, I think.

Cindy Gerard said...

lunatic cafe - Yeah for your brother. You must be so proud!

Kathleen said...

Out of the mouths of babes. What a generation we are building. They don't see what colour a person skin is, what there relegion are, but what they have inside their heart.

I was at home watching it on TV. As I was watching this event I kept in contact by phone with my mother in her home, and with my aunt who vacations in Florida.

Being Canadian we were watching it from a different pespective. I was watching a man take the oath office. One who I perceive as intellegent and able to lead the US into a new era and one who has the leadership skill and know how to do it with intergriy,diplomacy and dignity.

Many of my fellow Canadians thought the former president was not very intelligent and lacked dilomacy and dignity and lacked the leadership needed for this office from the get go. Believe me I feel the same way about our current Prime Minister.

I know it was a day of history as the first black man to take the office of presidient. But like your granddaughter I try not to see the colour of skin, but what makes up the man inside. I know that for millions of Americans this was not the case.

But as I watched as he took the oath of office walked down the streets of Washington with his wife, I was thinking about when I visited the capital a few years back. I thought back to my visit to the capital building and was in statuary hall and the historic sites I seen while I was there. I thought about our visit to George Washingtons home, Mt Veron, your first president of the United States.
But I will admit while watching these events unfold and I while watching the first couple as they danced, I was not thinking about historical, but was thinking know couple I have ever seen, who have ever danced the first dance as President and First Lady ever looked so happy, and I too cried a few tears. I too remember that movie "Cry for Happy", it is one of my favourites.

I wish my US friends good things for the years to come while President Obama takes your country into a new era. I hope for all of you it is will be rich with prospertiy and hope that you see not the colour of skin, but what molds him into the man he is.

A Canadian Friend

MJFredrick said...

Tuesday was a teacher workday, and we spent the first two hours scrambling to see how we would watch it. We tried to get one of the news channels streaming on our computers, no good. Finally the librarian remembered the building is wired for cable, but we had a heck of a time finding cable! We finally got it hooked up and 30 of the teachers and the principal and VP gathered in one room to watch. It was wonderful to share that historic moment with some of my favorite people.

Then I came home and watched it again on the DVR :)

Betina Krahn said...

Sorry I'm a little late with this. . . I mean to write yesterday but had to be away from home most of the day. I watched the first hour of things-- mostly the pre-coverage and the start of the speeches and welcome to the ceremony, then had to go off to volunteer at the hospital 12-4. So I was on duty for those four hours, but I did try to peek at one of the monitors in a waiting room. . . it was already over!

It seemed like a very short ceremony for something so important! Or maybe that was just me. The people standing int he cold waiting probably wouldn't have agreed! But that sea of people. . . two million. . . I can't imagine the logistics!

Yes, I'll remember it for a long time to come. I remember being shocked to learn how John Roberts muffed the oath. I'm a little embarrassed to say I didn't even know the current Chief Justice's name. . . but now I'll never forget it. sigh. It just goes to prove that for important moments like this, you should always have a back-up.

Take a lesson, you future Rita winners! Write out that thank-you speech. Be prepared for success.

And as for happy. . . I'm very pleased that we're turning a new page in our national life. I just hope and pray he was the strength to deal with the mess he's inherited. He's going to need a lot of prayers and a lot of help from the people.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Canadian Kathleen, thanks so much for your good wishes.

I caught a statement by one of the talking heads on TV that I'm not sure about. I think he said that this is the first time a black man has been elected head of state by any democracy. I'm wondering whether I missed a qualifier. And Western democracy? Any modern democracy?

But I hadn't thought about that. I do think the U.S. just took another giant leap for mankind.