So said Bruce Springsteen, appearing today with Pres. Obama in Madison, Wisconsin, in a close race to determine the kind of world our kids grow up in.
Like Bruce, I’m a father of three kids who are more important to me than life itself. That’s not extraordinary; that’s just what it means to be a dad. And like Bruce, I’ve lived to see some fairly remarkable things in my life, not the least of which is the election of the country’s first African American president.
That’s something I wish my own father had lived to see. He came into this world in 1921, at a time when, even as the son of an immigrant who “spoke funny” (my dad’s words, not mine), a white man like my father had enormous, and unfair, advantages over virtually every other demographic in the American melting pot. My father knew that, just like I know, as his son, I’ve enjoyed certain obvious advantages. But my father also knew that a person’s job in life is to leave the world a little better than he found it; and so he did what he could to level the playing field, or, at least, to start the leveling process. I won’t belabor the point because I’ve written about it before, but my father was heavily involved in integrating our schools and our village here in the suburbs of Chicago; and, over the course of many, many years, the changes he and my mother and so many other local people worked hard to achieve gradually took hold.
I’d like to think that those changes on the local level were a small but not insignificant part of the broader civil rights movement in America, a movement which still hasn’t reached its ultimate goals but has, I think, moved the country considerably forward. And he was part of it.
But real changes don’t happen over night. They never have.
My father died in 1994 at the age of 72, with a Democrat in the White House but still fourteen years before the country would elect its first African American president, and that’s always made me sad. I wish he could have lived to see what the civil rights movement – including, in a way, the small part he played in it – eventually accomplished. Not that that work is done; not by a long shot. But he could have rested more easily if he knew this was possible.
Still, my father, were he alive today, would say there’s work yet to be done. And it starts right now.
In the words of Bruce Springsteen:
In the words of Bruce Springsteen:
I’m here today because I’ve lived long enough to know that the future is rarely a tide rushing in. Its often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day. We are in the midst of one of those long days right now. I believe that President Obama feels those long days in his bones for all 100 per cent of us. He will live those days with us.
President Obama ran last time as a man of hope and change. You hear a lot of talk about how things are different now. Things aren’t any different–they’re just realer. Its crunch time. The President’s job, our job–yours and mine– whether your Republican, Democrat, Independent, rich, poor, black, brown, white, gay, straight, soldier, civilian–is to keep that hope alive, to combat cynicism and apathy, and to believe in our power, to change our lives and the world we live in. So, lets go to work tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. Lets re-elect President Barack Obama to carry our standard forward towards the America that awaits us.I think my father would approve that message.
“Land Of Hope And Dreams,” recorded live in Barcelona.