The theme of today’s inauguration was “Faith in America’s Future.” Whether or not you support our president and his opinions, you can support our nation. After all, you still live here, you still reap its benefits of freedom and equality, and so you, as a citizen of the United States, take what you want from our country and therefore can take what you want from today’s inaugural speeches. But the most important thing to remember is that life is not about taking, but giving. So give back what you get out of these speeches. Maybe it’s just one line, maybe it’s a feeling or an opinion, but whatever it is, use it. We are fortunate enough to live in a country where we can have a voice. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it is our jobs as citizens of this country to let our voices be heard and to help people of other nations, who may not be as lucky, find and free their own voices.
We can certainly see the obvious significance of holding our first African-American president’s second inauguration on a day that has been set aside to honor a man who is arguably one of the most famous African-American leaders of all time, Martin Luther King Jr. But to me what is more important to observe is the idea that Martin Luther King Jr. had a story that affected the lives of so many others and this will be evident for years to come. As I said in my first post for this blog, “Your story is theirs. Theirs is yours. We are constant page-turners in each other’s lives.” I wanted to take the time to intertwine quotes from today’s inauguration with words from Martin Luther King Jr. to notice how much of a page-turner he continues to be and how we can have hope for America’s future if we continue to incorporate his dreams and virtues into our lives for generations to come. It truly is all one story and Martin Luther relayed this when he said, “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t great because he had all the ideas he preached about in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before anyone else. He was great because he used that pedestal to let his dreams be heard. He was just one man, but his voice will forever echo in the hearts of Americans as well as anyone else striving to work towards creating a better future. He had faith in his ability to make a difference even though he was just one person. But, he also said this: “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” The reality of the matter was that even though he had a dream that he voiced beautifully to the world and even though this dream of his did ignite change in America, the fire would have just as easily died out if he didn’t have other people, other page-turners, willing to gather around him and add more fuel to the fire to keep it burning strong. We are all woven into a “single garment of destiny” and individual threads have the ability to stand out, let’s say by creating a zig-zag pattern, but all the other threads must do their part in order for this new, bold pattern to hold its shape and continue to create new possibilities for the future look and feel of the garment.
Nothing comes easy and change takes time. Besides acknowledging that he could not change this country on his own, Martin Luther King Jr. also knew that after making his speech, America would not simply become an entirely new nation overnight. President Barack Obama highlighted this idea today when he said, “We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and 40 years, and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.” We are so quick to demand immediate results in all aspects of life. I don’t want that car in two years, I want it now. I don’t want to see that band in concert over the summer, I want to fly two hours so I can see them next weekend. I think our president should be able to make sure we have a thriving economy in a matter of four years. What we must learn is that it is going to be a constant struggle. Martin Luther King Jr. knew this. He didn’t expect there to be no more racism in the country after his work was done. Change is an ongoing process, not an end result. The most important thing to do to promote change is to seize opportunities as they come to us and to be continually moving forward and taking strides towards making our nation and this world a better place. It is not up to one person to make these changes for our country and for the world. It is up to all of us.
In a country with two political parties who hold lots of opposing views, there is always a constant struggle for control. But, when it comes down to it, there is only one person in this world who you can control and that is yourself. What we don’t realize is that this is also the most important thing to have control over in life. Although you sometimes may not feel this way, you do affect everyone around you and the little actions you make every day indirectly touch the pages of others. This control is the only one which enables us to persevere through difficult circumstances. Why? Because we have the power to choose how we will react to the things that happen to us which are out of our control such as a giant superstorm or a tragic shooting. These were events that indirectly affected all of us in this country as well as around the world. Why? Because one person decided to react to their house being knocked down by going around town to make sure everyone else was okay. Which then inspired another to do the same. Which then led to a committee being formed in a small town to join together and rebuild what had been lost. And so on. Another person chose to honor her child’s life with dignity and courage. To let his short-lived time on earth become an inspiration for people in states that don’t even touch hers. And in countries across vast bodies of water. These people chose to stand up in the face of destruction. They saw something within themselves. Myrlie Evers-Williams’s prayer at the Obama inauguration included a reference to a hymn from the early 20th century which goes, “There’s something within me that holds the reins, there’s something within me that banishes pain, there’s something with in me I cannot explain, but all I know America there is something within, there is something within.” As a country we have been faced with a lot of hardship and devastation in the past year. The reason I say “as a country” is not because we each lost a child in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting or because all of our houses were destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. I say it because the individuals who were directly affected by these events hold threads that tug on the garment of our country as a whole. When they looked in the face of evil and decided to stand tall, we were there to support their backs. We live in a world that is so limitless, so unpredictable, so ever-changing, that it is impossible to prevent every bad thing from occurring. What is possible, however, is to control the way we react to these events when they do happen.
It isn’t until we all believe that the change that we want to see in this country and this world, and which we demand from all of our presidents is not the responsibility of one person, but EVERYONE. This is what I see when I look at that word: Every person becomes one. Every individual affects the oneness of our nation and our world. Think of a synonym for every: “each.” Take away the “one” from eachone and you get “each.” Take away the “each” from eachone and you get “one.” Each=one. They are equal. “Each” does not mean two or more. It means one. It means ONE person can make a difference. Now that we have a better grasp on the equivalence of “every” and “one,” let’s go back to the actual word, “everyone.” Replace “one” with “I am.” We use this phrase in order to convey our individuality and inform others of our relation to the world as a whole. I am Kelly. I am female. I am here. Saying “I am” means we are going to reveal something about ourselves. Now, reverse “I am” and put it back into the word. Everyami. Reverse the whole word. I may rêve. Rêve is the French word for dream. I may dream.
We are all one. We may all dream. Our dreams are what make us unique. They are what keep our lives going and help us connect with one another. So, what we dream about may ultimately affect the “every.” There is something within us that holds the reins. There is something within us we cannot explain. What is that something? The ability to dream. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. A dream that made history. A dream that turned into a reality. A dream that came from the lips of one, but ultimately affected everyone.
So dream on, America. Dream of an equal nation. Dream of a better life for our posterity. Dream of a cure. Dream of hope.
Hope is the origin of all dreams. And dreams ignite hope. The poet Richard Blanco ended his poem at today’s inauguration with the line, “Hope, a new constellation, waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it together.”
We all look up at the same night sky every night. We seek its guidance when we are in prayer and we look to the stars when we think about our dreams. Hope is up there too. Hope is the reason our eyes make the decision to turn towards the sky when we are searching for answers, instead of staring at our feet on the ground. To have hope is to be looking up towards something better. It is a gift that everyone has the ability to harness and far too many throw away very early on in life. So hold onto your hopes and dreams because you never know where they may take you or others around you.