Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Week!

Well, it finally came and went--Inauguration Week!

We did it up--Carroll and I went to the concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, Kate and I went to the Kids' Concert on Monday night and then the three of us stood outside in the freezing cold on the grounds of the Washington Monument to witness history live. Kate insisted that she didn't *really* see it because she just watched it on the "big TV," but I disabused her of that notion pretty quickly. As it turns out, she was the only kid in her class who actually went down there. We told her that she'd thank us for making her go when she was a grown-up.

I did try to write my way into tickets to see the swearing-in up close, but wasn't chosen as one of the "10 average Americans." Still, I thought I'd share the essay I wrote to try to get those tickets here:

It’s easy to forget the power of your own possibility. We start out thinking we can be anything—an astronaut, a movie star, President of the United States. Soon enough, though, we learn that it’s just not that simple. You don’t always get to be who you might have been. At every turn, you are told to be realistic, to be reasonable, and eventually, slowly, you come to accept things as they are—deeply flawed and not what you expected, but good enough in their own way.
When I was ten years old, before I understood what was reasonable, I came to Washington on a family vacation, all dressed up in my little girls’ business suit. I wrote to Representatives and Senators from my home state of New Jersey and set meetings with them. I rode on the underground transit system beneath the Capitol and watched speeches made on the floor of the House. I wanted to walk those halls one day, make a difference—maybe even become President of the United States.
Somewhere around high school, though, I understood that it wasn’t that easy. We didn’t have money and we had never been in politics. I didn’t go to private school or grow up with the children of Senators. Other dreams came and went. A serious dancer, I took classes with Broadway hopefuls. I earned a Master of Fine Arts and published my poems. But the voices kept up: be reasonable, be realistic. Accept what your life will be.
I did, and to be honest, it hasn’t worked out so badly. I have a good job, beautiful children—but I haven’t set the world on fire like I thought I could.
And that is what this Inauguration means to me. It is a reminder—to me and to us all—that you don’t have to be born into it to make a difference in this world. It reminds us of our own possibility, what we expected of ourselves when the voice in our heads said, “Why not?” instead of, “No way.” It reminds us that there is someone out there who didn’t listen when he was told that he wasn’t the right sort of person, didn’t come from the right kind of family, didn’t hold the right sort of pedigree, or even the right set of convictions and ideals. It reminds us of the power of boldness, the magic that can come from pure and simple stubbornness and an unwillingness to give up on our dreams.
My daughter is ten years old. I want her to see that audacity up close. I want her to know it in her bones. I want her to never give up on the best parts of herself, her best hopes for her future, no matter what anyone says to her. I want her to dream of what she might accomplish and hear her own voice answer, “Why not?”

That's all for now.


  1. You call me next time you need to hear a "why not?".

    I'm glad you shared your essay - it is actually easy for me to imagine that 10 year old in her little girls' suit. Very cool.


  2. Thanks for sharing your blog address. I've been thinking about y'all. It's good to see pictures and to read about how life is going. The girls look so grown up!

    And thanks for sharing your essay. Very inspiring.

    Happy New Year.