At Your Service: Nov. 5, 2008
When history is made, as is occurring this week, it always marks a new beginning. After such precipitous events, our picture of who we are is changed and the vision of what we might be and accomplish expands to include new possibilities. To paraphrase from one such event: what is a single step for one is a leap for us all.
I read somewhere that dreams skip a generation; those of our grandparents are ours to bring to fruition. If we consider a generation something in the range of 25 years, then it is no accident that some 50 years after the political rights of women and minorities were finally secured that the political scenery has been changed forever.
What will we do with this exciting new possibility?
Often attributed to Bobby Kennedy, the words of George Bernard Shaw inspired “radical” thought in the 1960s, “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” Kennedy was attorney general when the civil rights laws were enacted and given teeth.
At the same time, women were fighting for genuine inclusion in the halls of government and business. The glass ceiling stopped many, but among those who held to the vision was Gloria Steinem, who said, “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
For the first time in the history of this nation, children of every sort can find examples of people like themselves in the highest echelons of responsibility and accountability. This diversity is a resource with roots that run deep into every other area of the world. We get the benefit of not just our grandparents’ dreams, but also their hard won wisdom.
The diversity of our ancestry affords us a unique perspective. Whether we are the descendents of those who held themselves as superior to others or those who suffered their tyranny, we benefit from the lessons in humility those positions taught. From the rich and the poor we have inherited truths about abundance and wealth. Some lessons have yet to be realized.
Facing tremendous challenges, we must forge together solutions that are responsible in both the long and short term. It is not enough to simply drill or mine for more of anything; we must also tap wholly renewable resources and protect the environment in the process. More than merely creating jobs, we must generate work that draws from people’s resources and compensates them fairly for their contribution. We must build the bridge that connects the right to life to health.
Perhaps the most important lesson to be drawn from our diversity is simply in the value of diversity itself. More minds in the mix give us more ideas and creativity. More eyes enable us to see what has been through a sharper lens and afford us a variety of perspectives. More hands with a broader array of skills make it possible for us to do what was once impossible.
Some would say that the dream is for us to live as one. I instead offer that the dream is for us to live peacefully as many. The opportunity that is our diversity could move us beyond “tolerance” to the acceptance and appreciation of our differences. In that process, something wholly new can emerge; something as impossible as this historical election was only two generations past.