Saturday, January 26, 2013

I've now lived long enough to BE Back History ... and my week is fast coming up ... .

On my January 18th bus tour (where I serve as tour guide) a reporter for the Richmond Pulse -- complete with camera -- was along for the trip.  I've become pretty used to having this happen, and it doesn't take long before such folks fade into the background and are barely noticeable -- either by the other passengers or by me.

He remained behind when the trip ended two hours later, and wanted a  brief interview with which to complete his story; easy enough to comply.

A few days later he emailed a request for permission to use a photograph I'd posted online when someone entered my name into my high school online yearbook.  In the picture I'm a pretty and naive 17 year-old.  Since I have no way to know what shape his story is taking, I didn't want to try to influence his work, but at 91 I can hardly remember that young girl -- and it didn't seem appropriate somehow -- and how on earth would it be fitting? But maybe I need to just wait and see the article. 

That being said, I sent a current photo in the hope that it might influence his decision about the article.  I really am not caught up in the past, and am perfectly content with the current version of Betty.  Maybe the bar is simply lower by now, and my expectations for what life should look like for what we call "the Golden Years" is far different from anything that young girl might have ever envisioned in her wildest dreams!

Re-inventing myself as the times and conditions underwent changes -- living life in a constant state of surprise -- has led to every possible kind of challenge, and highs, lows, and in-betweens, that always held enough promise to propel me into the next year, month, day, and -- sometimes, hour. 

Besides, where were the reporters when that pretty young girl was building her resume and looking into a future -- dimly -- in an unenlightened nation?

Better late than never?



Monday, January 21, 2013

... but you can see from this National Park Service short video that there was magic enough to capture the moment ... .

This morning, while the grand folks were being shepherded in and out of the Chapel and moving in the impressive caravan of limos to the site of the ceremony at the Capitol --  I was remembering the first inauguration in 2009 when Martha Lee and I were making our way from our little rental (just for the occasion) near the Capitol -- on foot in the gathering crowds on the streets.  We stopped long enough to visit the bronze statue of Mary McLeod Methune, the great educator, and then on to the Mall where nearly two million new best friends were amassing at the gates where we would show credentials and find our seats.  Poor Martha was trapped in that tunnel -- folks who never got to see the ceremony at all.  I was more fortunate, and found my seat without problems.

But, unlike today when I'm comfortably dressed in my pajamas and warm socks -- and munching on toast and cinnamon tea (as opposed to being bundled up against 17 degree cold with steam coming out of my ears and icicles hanging from my nose), I'm seeing it all courtesy of CSPAN.

In the last inauguration -- even though seated in a VIP section as an invited guest of my representative -- I watched the entire pageant on the giant screens that were standing nearby.  The major players were tiny images high up on a platform, and only identifiable because of associated memories and the familiarity provided by years of seeing them on the small screen in my bedroom.  Otherwise I might just as well have watched at home -- as I do now -- without the travel.  But it wouldn't have been forever memorable.

Would I have preferred today's more comfortable viewing to the live experience of 4 years ago?  Of course not.  The energy of the shared experience was palpable.   Nowhere on earth was there more goodwill and fellowship concentrated in one place.  Being together magnified the experience for each  of us.  We'd come from great distances on every possible mode of transportation.  It was unforgettable.  Life-changing.

Funny ... now that I've seen the more complete pictures with the background filled in by knowledgeable historians ... it feels as if I went through the last inauguration encased in a 3' x 3' bubble that limited sight and sound.  But there was so much life in those moments that there was no awareness of what we were missing, factually.

The live experience was real, beyond imagination, with a spiritual element that more than made up for what was missing.  But this morning's viewing completed the very different experience of four years ago.   I'm so grateful for having this fuller picture to add to that personal history and to treasure always.

Now I'm going to have another cup of tea and just meditate on how far we've come in our time.

The speech was all I'd have wished it to be.

I'm no longer seeing the promise of democracy as unfulfilled.  My sense of self as an American has evolved over time.  Not only that, but I now see myself among those with the power to -- together with others -- make it real for generations yet unborn.

That, I now realize, is true -- and new, and will enrich my work from this day forward.
This video was created by the National Park Service for national distribution on "Inside NPS" for the first inauguration on January 20, 2009 ... the ritual as experienced by this ranger ... .

Sunday, January 20, 2013

This morning I've been watching the opening ceremonies of the (private) presidential inauguration for a second term ...

... and am reminded of four years ago and the feelings prior to that event  The following post is dated January 10th, ten days before Inauguration Day in the year 2009.  

I've been asked so often how this year's event compares with that experience, and it occurred to me that going back into the archives to retrieve those feelings just might suffice.  There are things that one never has the chance to re-live, and it may be futile to try to make such comparisons.  But I feel misty as I watch today, and all of the affect of this moment are with me still as I watch this peaceful change of governance and marvel at possibilities that still lie ahead  ... .


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Not only will I be going to the Inauguration next week, but I'll be audible!

The strange things that the mind holds in reserve ...

Somewhere between the years of 11 and 13(dated by the image of the Elmhurst Jr. High School auditorium that crops up in the remembering) there was a blinding insight that has been a major factor in the becoming of Betty for over a lifetime. This had to be associated with the absolutism of childhood combined with an awakening sense of social responsibility. The insight was life-altering and has been incorporated into a value system that persists to this day.

I recall that it was in that school assembly while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance that it hit me with the force of revealed "truth." I found myself instantly falling silent at the words, "...with liberty and justice for all." Not only that, but I continued to mouth the words while holding back the sounds. I recognized the phrase as absolutely untrue. I realized, perhaps for the first time, that the words didn't include me or anyone like me, surely not my dearest friend and grandfather, dark-skinned Papa George. I also realized, instinctively, that those young classmates standing around me with hand over heart and the piety of youth didn't know that. That the teacher whom I adored and who was leading the pledge -- was unaware, as well. I didn't know at that point where the blame should lie, but it wasn't with anyone here in this hall. That I was certain of, and I had no wish to dishonor their patriotism by allowing them to be witness to my dissent. I only knew that somewhere I'd read an anonymous quote (perhaps in a tiny box in the center of a page in the Readers' Digest) the words, "Every day in every way what I am to be I am now becoming. Words to live by" -- and with the passion of a small well-read and uncompromising little girl to support it. I would not participate in the lie. Not then -- and not ever.

Later I would extend the practice to falling silent at the words, "...under God" and not because I'd intellectually worked my way out of religious orthodoxy; that would have required a far higher level of sophistication than I could claim, but because I found the words non-inclusive of other belief systems (whose God?), and was inserted into the Pledge for all the wrong reasons. But that came much later and from a far more reasoned place.

So that left two "audible" blanks in my personal pledge to my country though I continued to rise in respect and participate to the extent that my values would allow. I'd never discussed this with anyone and presumed that I was alone in this practice of censoring and deleting appropriate to my personal beliefs.

On Inauguration Day in this year 2009, I will stand and (for the first time since childhood) I will bring sound to the Pledge. I'll take my place as one of "We the People," and I'll "promote the general welfare" and "form a more perfect Union", and boldly proclaim my part in the re-creation of all that may restore our once glorified and now badly tarnished image as the undisputed leader of the nations of the free world. And those words held suspect for so long will finally ring true.

...and I'll do all that while witnessing the swearing in of the nation's first black president -- completely awed by the arc of all of our American lives that has brought us to this place of reconciliation and patriotism of a kind that now begins to make sense to those of us who have been silent and/or conditional in expressing it.

As I watch that historic national rite on Inauguration Day from the stands, I will be the only member of that audience of flag-pledging Americans who will know that I've uttered those words

"With Liberty and Justice for All!"

aloud, for the first time in over 70 years, and that I will be doing so as the full-fledged member of

"We, the people!"