From as far back as I can remember, my parents taught my brother and me about the importance of never, ever judging anyone based on their skin color, religion, gender, looks - anything. I can remember my mother sitting us down and explaining how everyone is different, but we're all people, and no one person is better than anyone else.
My grandmother, aside from being a ball busting environmentalist, was also a firm supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. She protested, drove down to Alabama and Mississippi (from Massachusetts) to protest, and she wrote letters to anyone who would print them. Her letters to the editor became a fixed part of the local newspaper, with her latest crusades often headlining (it was a very small, very boring town apparently). She was even arrested once for protesting against segregation in Boston - which my brother thinks is possibly the coolest thing ever, and I must admit, it is pretty badass (Patrick's goal is now to be arrested for "street cred like Nana" - my parents are overjoyed).
My dad's father on the other hand, probably wouldn't mind if things were still segregated today. He is a wonderful, sweet man - unless you're not upper middle class and white, and then he is horrible. I love my grandpa, but at the same time, I just cannot respect his views on mankind.
I think I would have liked to get my mom's mom in the same room as my dad's dad and just have them hash it out...maybe it would have made a difference in his life. Surprisingly, and fortunately, my dad was not poisoned by the racism that plagues my grandpa's life, which in itself is a miracle.
My parents have always walked the talk - they told us never to judge anyone based on differences between their lives and ours, and I cannot think of one single example where my parents have done this.
I can't remember the exact time when my parents first introduced me to the dreams and hopes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (probably because it was when I was two years old and not even comprehending), but his references and speeches were constantly referenced by my parents. Along with Jackie O, Dr. King was definitely another hero of mine growing up. Every Martin Luther King Day, while we were off from school, my parents would play the video of the "I Have a Dream" speech, and we all watched together and just reflected on it. I think this was the first year we didn't do that, and I missed it a lot, and got a call from Pat saying that he had just watched it on his own thanks to YouTube. It's a tradition I will hopefully carry on with me and share with my children one day.
When my parents found out that Barack Obama was a hopeful for the 2008 Presidential race, it did not take long until they became proud supporters. I knew nothing about President (!) Obama's stance on issues, his family life - anything about him really, so I decided to research him first before simply going along with my parents views. Since my parents have always allowed us (Pat and me) to chose our own path on issues like religion and our personal views, they never once pushed their beliefs onto either of us, but instead let both Pat and me make up our own minds (which ended up with us supporting Obama as well).
We worked together as a family going to fundraisers, parades and hosting benefits to support our hope for Barack Obama to become President...my parents dealt with the heat from their church, which insisted that you could not be a Christian and vote for Obama (?!), but they remained hopeful (and unconcerned about their religious lives suffering due to a candidate endorsement). While campaigning and fundraising for Obama, I cannot even tell you all the incredible people from all walks of life that we encountered. Rich, poor, black, white, Asian, you name it - it was like all differences were put aside and we were just united in our common goal of hope. We met a teacher from an inner city who told us how fifteen years ago when she asked her predominately black students their dream jobs, none ever even imagined that they could become President. She asked her students the same question this past year, and half the students in her classroom said that their goal in life was to become President of the United States. Obama hadn't even won yet, and he was sending a message of hope to these children.
Forty and fifty years ago, it would not have even been feasible for an African American man to run for President... and now, because of the determination of people like Dr. King (and my grandma too!), we are seeing our nation change as the first black President is on his way.
Whether or not you are an Obama supporter, I would highly recommend tuning into the inauguration tomorrow night. It's going to be an absolutely historic and moving night. I would write more about this, but the lovely Jocelyn has already summed up everything I could want to say on the subject on her blog - check it out!
I really, truly wish that Dr. King was alive today to be able to see all his hopes and dreams materializing. I wonder if while he was campaigning, preaching, and protesting, he really thought in his heart that this day would come. Well, with your help, Dr. King, we did it!
If you haven't read Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, I would definitely recommend it. And this post was definitely not meant to push my views on Obama onto anyone - I know that others have opinions different than mine, and I understand and respect that completely.
Thanks for giving me an outlet to ramble...I think I'm just super excited for tomorrow! :) I also can't wait to see what Michelle Obama is going to wear!