Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An aerial view of hope, opportunity, and thanksgiving

Last week I had the chance to fly up to NY for a quick business meeting.  While a bit of a last second trip, I did indeed have a great exit row, window seat on Delta on the flight up to La Guardia.  As we boarded the flight, I dove into the pre-work for my meeting the next day and didn't pay much attention to the view until we were nearing New York City.  It was a crystal clear fall afternoon as we started to get close to NY, with the late afternoon sun shining through the autumn clouds and the view below was stunning; none more beautiful and inspirational than the view of the Statue of Liberty that you can see above.

With the very divisive election still very present in our national dialogue, I was immediately “floored” by how everyone on “my” side of the plane were glued to their windows, working to get a glimpse of  “Lady Liberty.”  Men and Women, young and old, black, brown and white, tall and short, probably republican and democrat all had a shared urge and a “pull” to get a glimpse of a shared American icon.  The view outside of the plane was stunning, and the view inside the plane stopped me in my tracks.

I was reminded that in the midst of all the divisive rhetoric, we did have a shared “American” past.  We all connected to the statue in one way or another, searching for a better way forward, a better future for our communities and our families.  In a time where we seem to focus on ALL the things that divide us, it was a bit heart warming to have that shared moment, all of us like kids glued to a “school bus window” in the sky.

From a personal vantage point, the view reminded me that one side of my family, my mom’s family, had immigrated to the United States from Germany and Luxembourg in the late 1800’s.  They came into that same harbor, seeing that same statue, well before Ellis Island had been built, and were “processed” as immigrants through an immigration facility at the tip of Manhattan called Castle Clinton. They didn't speak English, but had come to this county to seek a better life for themselves, their families and the future generations of their families. I am from a family of immigrants, and candidly we are all from families of immigrants regardless of what route, what port or what time period was your or our family’s emigration, we all share that in common.  Its tough to remember that we all have a lot in common, in so many ways, coming out of a landscape of divisive language that pervaded the campaign trail.

I share this story a few days before thanksgiving with intent.  The view of that lovely statue was a great reminder of how much we have to be thankful for and how much work lies ahead in our journey as a country.  We have so much work to do to insure “justice for all,” so much work to do to have EVERY voice heard across our land, so much work to do to reduce the needless violence and hatred across our communities, and the list literally goes on and on and on….  Equally true, we must hold onto and be thankful for the progress that we have made, and be energized by the statue in NY harbor, or other images across our country, to continue that work and be thankful for the generations that have brought us this far, and renew our commitment for the work of “hope, opportunity and thankfulness” ahead.  I wish you and your families a very happy thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The "Work" of Hope

Like so many individuals across the world I was stunned by the election results of Tuesday night.  It is probably true that regardless of which side of this campaign you might have been on, the results of the 2016 Presidential election are stunning and historic.  For some, their candidate surprisingly won the electoral vote and is somewhat unexpectedly heading to the White House in January.  For others, the “shock and awe” of the results, to the absolute consternation and disbelief of pundits, pollsters, editors and a broad swath of journalists, seems impossible to fathom or accept.  I find myself in that second group personally.

As I woke early Wednesday morning, after grabbing a few hours of sleep, to confirm my worst fears of an electoral college swinging the “wrong way,” I struggled to make sense of the implications of the results.  How could this individual have been elected, after THE video, the tirades, the hate language, etc., etc., etc.?  Equally how did “we” all get it so wrong?  How were “we” so out of touch with this clear, angry, mostly rural, mostly white voice rising across the electoral map?  How did this happen, and how can this possibly be part of “our” future??

Trying to stay off of social medial and away from CNN and other news outlets, instead focusing on a work project at hand, I found myself going through (and am still going through) the “five stages of grief,   “Denial=> Anger=> Bargaining=> Depression=> Acceptance.”  While I think that I may be stuck for a while in the  “Anger=>Denial” loop, I have come to realize that simple “acceptance” will not be the last stage of my process, nor will I let our president-elect drive me into a mindset and personal orientation of anger/depression/pessimism and cynicism!

It’s in this context that I found myself making a pilgrimage this morning to a sight I keep returning to as a touchstone for inspiration and hope; the sight of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize in Concourse E at the Atlanta airport.  Pictured above, this specific sight, the display case with the Peace Prize medal in a busy airport walkway means a lot to me and has for years.   Additionally his acceptance speech, which I have quoted often across the essays on this blog, is a document that I revere and constantly return to in moments of challenge and trial.  Specifically, I find myself turning again to a specific paragraph that is once again timely and poignant.

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”

On this Thursday morning after the election I realize that I need to “work for hope” in this historic moment.  I am working hard to have “an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.”  I am working hard not to “accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him.”  Finally I am working hard NOT to believe that “the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”  In this moment consumed in the “Denial=>Anger” loop, I need to work hard to hold on to hope and these words from over fifty years ago which ring deeply true again today.

I am certain that there will be difficult times ahead as our very divided country attempts to move forward after this divisive election.  I am certain that we will struggle as the new administration takes office and a new day with new policies, priorities and agendas emerges early next year.  This is going to be hard!  Equally I am certain that the president-elect, this one individual, with all of the hate, racism, bigotry and misogyny that was seen on the campaign trail WILL NOT divert me from the ideals of Dr. King.  I WILL NOT give him that much power!  Focusing on the “work of hope” will be my center, staying aligned to Dr. King’s ideals and optimism will be my guardrails.  This indeed is going to be hard, but on to the work at hand, ‘the work of hope!”