I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
|photo by Mike Licht|
RHYS BOWEN: I'd agree about Michelle. One classy lady who has raised two daughters with the idea of service and dedication. Another of my heroes was Maya Angelou. When I tried to go through our current crop of politicians I'm afraid I couldn't come up with a single "Ask what you can do for your country, not what your country can do for you." It's been more "Ask how I can accept kick backs from lobbyists while denying the other party the chance to do anything." But there are plenty of small heroes: those who teach in inner city schools and buy all their own supplies. Nurses who sit by the bedside of a dying child. Those who minister to the homeless and go to war-torn countries to provide help to refugees.
I think we are all called upon to be heroes in our own small way. It involves not turning a blind eye to injustice, speaking up even though it may make us feel foolish. Never allowing bullying or intimidation. Choosing our charities that mean something special to us and then giving generously. Volunteering. Showing compassion. Vowing to do one small act of kindness every day and to leave the world a little better than we found it. A great challenge, but worth undertaking!
HALLIE EPHRON: I agree on Michelle Obama. And in that vein, another heroic first lady was Eleanor Roosevelt. She found her own niche. lobbied for the needy and oppressed, and had Franklin's ear. And I'll second teachers and nurses and politicians who are motivated by a desire to serve for the public good. And the suffragists and suffragettes and abolitionists. Reminding us that it's easy to sign a petition but actions speak louder.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Chiming in on Michelle Obama. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does as a private citizen (and she has so many years ahead of her! She's younger than many of us.) Politicians, leaders... I find Sen Tammy Duckworth incredibly inspiring. Someone who has given as much as she has to our country and who is willing to give more. Elizabeth Warren, the populist firebrand. Maine's own Senator Susan Collins, one of the last of the moderate Republicans in DC, a politician who is willing to listen to and work with people across the aisle.
I agree with Rhys: the days to come will require us all to be heroes, if even in one small gesture or one kind word.
INGRID THOFT: Another Michelle Obama fan here. I looked up "hero" in the dictionary, because it seems to be a word we toss around a lot more than we used to. Dictionary.com defines it as "a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character," and Michelle seems to fit the bill with nobility of character. I think there are groups who have acted heroically by providing shelter and relief to those displaced by war. I think Anita Hill was a hero for taking a stand (literally) in the face of horrendous abuse and character assassination. I think that kids who stand up for other kids on the playground are acting heroically, and I do think people who do jobs where they run towards danger rather than from it are heroes.
JENN MCKINLAY: I adore Michelle, too. Frankly, I admire anyone who can keep their composure when under constant scrutiny and frequent vicious attack. I am not that person - my command of profanity prohibits me from being polite when a good chewing out is deserved. I do try, but I usually fail. I consider myself a work in progress, learning from people like Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Emma Thompson, Malala Yousifazi, and my mom, to name just a few. In raising boys, I feel lucky that they have several strong male role models (like their dad) to learn from but when they were younger, I also employed the Rule of DC/Marvel. If they exhibited behavior that was unacceptable, I'd say, "You love (insert Spiderman, Ironman, Batman, etc.), do you think he would behave like that? If you want to be a hero, you have to act like one." For the most part, it worked like a charm. It will be interesting to see who they choose to emulate as they grow older. Right now, it's all about music, specifically rock and roll -- Keith Richards as a role model, go figure!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm all for Keith Richards as a role model, Jenn!! And I admire Michelle tremendously. I think it will be very interesting to see what she does when the First Lady shackles come off.
I know it seems hard at the moment to remember that there are lots of people who act with decency, kindness, and compassion, and speak up--and act--on their principles. There is Jimmy Carter, and Pope Francis. I have great admiration for Bill and Melinda Gates, who donate huge amounts of money AND effort to make the world a better place. And Bill Gates's buddy, Warren Buffet. There's John Lewis, the congressional representative who's much in the news the last few days, but his record as an activist goes back many years. Barbara Bush is a long-held hero of mine for her efforts towards improving literacy.
And here's something inspiring; the Bush girls (young women, I should say,) Barbara and Jenna, writing to Sasha and Malia on leaving the White House. They have grown up to be women to admire.
And here's one more thing to give a little fist-bump to human compassion and decency: ‘James Bond of Philanthropy’ Gives Away the Last of His Fortune.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Jenn, your rule of DC/Marvel is awesome. Thank you! I am trying that out this very day.
As for the incomparable Michelle. Yes. I am endlessly grateful. And I am so attached to her. (And I have talked with Anita Hill, and could barely form a coherent word.)
But heroes and role models?
My step-son and his wife and our two grandsons are visiting us this weekend. It is enthralling and amazing to watch Josh and Eli learn things and acclimate to their world--and to see their parents juggle and help and encourage. Paul works every day at a stimulating and important job and Krista is getting her masters in early childhood education and STILL they focus on their kids. It is so difficult. So--I am in AWE of any hard-working and devoted parents. Any parent who is taking the responsibility to introduce a new person into the world--to teach them about love and music and literature and analytical thinking and kindness and pizza. I applaud you all.
Reds, how about you? Any thoughts about modern day heroes?