US President Barack Obama gave his farewell address to the nation as his administration and second term summits. I listened and watched and read along to the prepared remarks along with millions of others over the Internet, radios, and television sets around the country.
There were a few policy messages, and a recount of what he believes his legacy has and will be. But it was a message about coming together and setting aside differences to make the country a better tomorrow. I most appreciated a quote from a character in Harper Lee‘s famous book, “To Kill A Mockingbird” following a message that has to do with what we all want for our children.
If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’
For blacks and other minorities, it means tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face – the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender American, and also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change.
For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised.
For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, Italians, and Poles. America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened.
So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.” – -President Barack Obama
Because the purpose of this blog is to also help parents grow conscientious, civic-minded and all around great kids, that message resonated particularly with me. I think that part of the reason there is so much tension, hostility and disagreement among the US citizenry these days is that a lot of people do not step back to take into account that, for the most part, everyone wants the same things: peace of mind, security, comfort and a bright and promising future. We all just have different ideas how to get there. We should listen more, really.
Godspeed, President Obama!