January 13, 2011

All I Can Say Is: We Are In A Moment

Imagine — imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.  She had been elected to her student council.  She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful.  She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.  She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations.   I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it.  I want America to be as good as she imagined it.    All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. “I hope you help those in need,” read one. “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

— Barack Obama / January 12, 2011. McKale Memorial Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

The caption of this photo in the NYT, published one day after Obama’s poetic sermon to the country, reads:

Lindsey Lummus, 10, wearing an angels wings and a halo, watched as the funeral hearse carrying the casket of Christina Taylor Green, 9, arrived at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on Thursday in Tucson.

With Lincoln’s words about “better angels” near audible, the expectations Obama spoke of are conjured, at once, in this imaginary Christina, this living angel, and the thousands, tens of thousands more she symbolizes.

All I can say is: we are in a moment.

(photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images. h/t: @A_l . NYT article here.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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