Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Day of Joy and Celebration... Now, "ALL HANDS ON DECK!"

Blog Post – January 20, 2009

A Day of Joy and Celebration… Now “ALL HANDS ON DECK!”

As I spent the day watching tie Presidential Inauguration and all the accompanying ceremonies, I could only experience a level of pride and accomplishment that is unparalleled with anything in my lifetime.

My mind was flooded with the thousands of times when the color of my skin was the barrier, whether overt or covert, to living out the creed of the Declaration of Independence, and the promises of the Constitution of the United States. Multiply that singular person’s experiences by that of the millions of African Americans both living and dead, and you might begin to get a sense of the enormous leap forward our country has made.

In no way do I intend to imply today’s swearing in of the 44th President of the United States of American was something we as people of color alone accomplished. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was an accomplishment of what I’m choosing to call the “Rainbow People,” people of every race, color, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, religion… in fact, the melting pot that is America made their voices heard in sufficient numbers to produce this most historic event since our country’s inception!

I confess in advance that there are not enough words to capture all the things that happened prior to today so that today could be a reality. I suggest that each person who played a role, no matter how large or small, has a story that will live with them to the grave – and one of which they too, are immensely proud! For most, if not all, I think it was the first time in a very long time (and for some, the FIRST time) there was an opportunity to actively participate in charting the course of our country’s future.

To the millions of my volunteer partners, whether convention delegates, they worked the campaign phones, knocked on doors, sent e-mails, did the mailings, contributed money, sent out mailings, worked the polls on election day, along with the actors and entertainers, elected officials at every level, the various fund-raisers and the staff who worked tirelessly day and night, for months and years, I offer my deepest gratitude, honor and respect.

Again, I will refer mainly to my personal experiences during the campaign, since those are the only ones I can authentically attest to.

There were the bus rides, provided by Congressman Danny K. Davis, for volunteers to campaign in Indianapolis, Indiana, a previously “Red State,” and the hard work of knocking on doors and passing out literature. I noticed the enormous disparity between the modern, well-kept urban residences of the mostly white and well-off downtown area and the outskirt neighborhoods, occupied my almost entirely low and middle-income African Americans. Of particular note was the fact that on almost EVERY block, 50% or more of the houses were boarded up and abandoned. These were not the run-down, slum type of residences which are too often associated with urban blight.

These were the homes of working families, who no doubt lost their jobs, and therefore their ability to pay their mortgages. And, since the nation’s workforce has been hit so hard with unemployment, and the financial industry’s ability/willingness to give home loans greatly diminished, there were no buyers for those foreclosed homes.

It was also evident that the remainder of those who were holding on by their fingernails financially, in spite of the current hardship, could sense the possibility of a future that offered them a chance to recover and surpass the ills of the past if then Senator Obama was elected President.

Of course, we weren’t always greeted with sympathetic cheers of encouragement. There were those who, for whatever reason, were either afraid of what an Obama Presidency represented or were blinded by their racial hatred and ignorance, over the fact that a black man had the audacity to run for the highest office in the land, AND, actually had the chance to win.
I know that the overwhelming majority of those reading this are either liberal or moderate in their political views, and nearly all of my friends and associates were and are Obama supporters, so this next section is not directed toward them.

Rather, I want to address those who identify themselves as “Conservative Republicans.” For far too long, the lust for power and control, whether in government or industry, at the expense of those already less fortunate.

I don’t have an issue with conservatism, OR Republicans. It’s only when their interests exclude and deny the privileges of citizenship they enjoy (and often feel solely entitled to) to the rest of us that I take issue.

Specifically, the rights to a decent education, where kids don’t have to worry about being killed on the way to or IN school, and where the teachers of inner-city schools are the best qualified and not just the ones who were brave enough to venture into what are often as dangerous as some combat zones. And where graduation rates are 100% vs. 45-50% and sometimes lower in some Chicago neighborhoods.

Where our national expenditures for education, health-care, tending to the needs of our elderly, providing for our veterans are seen as just as important, if not more so, as our monetary commitment to armament and war! $20 Billion Dollars a month for an unnecessary war is both inexcusable and criminal!

Where the disparity between the number of African Americans and Latinos incarcerated far in excess of their respective percentage of the overall population is ended, and justice is actually administered fairly, and where we people of color aren’t automatically assumed to be the predominant criminal element of our society, and where the laws are enforced fairly. That accused swindler, Bernard Madoff, who allegedly “made-off” with $50 Billion Dollars of his investors’ money, has been under “house arrest” – at his $7 Million Dollar Manhattan Condo is just the latest blatant example of the disparity to which I allude.

Doing the “right thing” is not a Democratic or Republican possession. Not Liberal or Conservative. Integrity does not belong to any one race, nationality, religion, political party, economic class or age group.

It didn’t take the Supreme Court to announce the winner of THIS Presidential Election – the voices of the people spoke loudly enough that none of the hard-core right-wing tactics of the past were sufficient to prevent what is surely the best thing to happen to our nation in a very long time.

I have my own view of what should happen to those who violated the Constitution, trashed the Bill of Rights and encroached our personal privacy in the name of “Homeland Security,” but I’ll leave history and the courts to make the final determination.

Instead, I appeal to those who might fall into any of the categories mentioned above. To quote a popular folk song, “The times, they are a-changin…” And we are NOT going backward. So rather than clinging to your archaic, hate-filled view of America and how you might think that it’s a “white’s-only” club, I say, get over it!

The same people who excel in every arena where given a chance, whether baseball, football, tennis, golf, and most recently, speed skating in athletics, to the arts, where Sidney Poitier is no longer the ONLY African American Academy Award winner, to the corporate board rooms of Time-Warner/AOL and American Express who have had African American CEOs, from Crispus Attucks to the Tuskegee Airmen to General Colin Powell in the military and now, the President of the United States, will continue to do their best in the interests of our nation. And no amount of racial supremacy rhetoric can take that away.

Try to find and focus on those things we ALL have in common, allowing for the fact that we have been and always WILL be, a nation that respects freedom of choice within the Rule of Law.

We are, as President Obama said on numerous occasions, not Red States and Blue States, but the United States of America, and we have the rare opportunity to leave an indelible mark for good on the pages of history – let’s not let the past diminish the possibilities of the future. (End of rant… for now.)

For my fellow warriors in Transformation (and you know who you are), I strongly recommend easing up on down-playing “change” and “hope” in our courses and seminars. It IS after all those very themes that spoke to a sufficient number of Americans, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, and citizens of all ages that caused the historic election of President Barack Obama.

Yes, the distinction is valid in certain contexts, however, to ignore (and imply the uselessness of) the listening of millions of people of all the groups I mentioned earlier, would be an argument with reality in addition to a huge business mistake. As an African American “graduate”, I have for almost 3 decades, had to justify why for most of that time, there was NO African American Course Leader, and then later, only ONE. I’m well acquainted with the level of training required and the huge commitment to ensuring the quality of delivery of our programs, courses and seminars. That not-withstanding, it’s time to produce a BREAKTHROUGH in this area. Now that even “Rednecks for Obama” have joined the 21st Century and set aside their biases of the past and accepted the notion that a black man can run the most powerful country in the world, surely you can find one or two more African Americans to lead our courses.

Anyone reading this who knows me and has worked with me knows, there are few things more dear to my heart than Transformation and the enormous difference it has made for me and millions of others-whether directly or indirectly, and I have put my money and my body where my mouth has been, including my 23 ½ years as a Course Supervisor (if you don’t know what a Course Supervisor is, this part isn’t for YOU!).

Lastly, for now anyway, we are at a unique point in time – one where there is sufficient unity and momentum to produce unprecedented breakthroughs for ourselves and generations to come. It won’t however, happen magically. It will take all of us who share the commitment to a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out. YOU can make the difference, with your family, in your job/profession, in your community, wherever you are, and whoever you come in contact with, YOU can be a catalyst for causing the future that many of us voted for and dreamed of.

If you see racial, gender or sexual orientation intolerance/injustice, speak up! If you hear your friends, family, co-workers telling racially demeaning jokes, call them on it.

If the only place you see/talk to people who don’t look like YOU is in your workplace, take some action to alter that. If you attend an all-white church, or live in an all-white neighborhood (no matter HOW you justify it), do something about it. The young people of our nation and around the world will greatly appreciate it.

The pundits and other commentators have already started opining about President Obama’s speech, and offering predictions about what lies ahead. Just don’t forget that YOU have a say in how it goes!

To quote sociologist Margaret Meade, “… never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

In other words, “ALL HANDS ON DECK!”

(Visit my blog: http://theworldisgettingbetter.blogspot.com)

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