Gosh, I don’t even know how to start this. Maybe I would cry, if I were the crying type. It all began with this text I received last night from my bestie:
Yes, I am a grown woman who buys stock and invests in failing companies, so what?
But seriously. I sold. It was hard. It was like letting go of something you’ve been holding on to for nearly half a century. An image, some history, a piece of oneself.
SEARS, the American Institution filed bankruptcy this morning, and it’s all Amazon’s fault.
You see, SEARS was Amazon, before Amazon was Amazon. But progression. You can’t fight it. We grow and we evolve, we change with the times and like all things, including humans, everything has a lifecycle.
Way back in the 1800’s, you now, Victorian Era, we were a much more resourceful type. We used what we had, and fully embraced that ‘Necessity is the Motherhood of Invention’ theory. We made stuff and sewed stuff and built stuff and grew stuff and baked stuff. Money was a much different animal, er, commodity then. If it were your husband’s birthday, you’d prepare his favorite meal for when he arrived home in the evening. You’d make yourself a wee bit more available that night. If it were a young girl’s birthday, mom would sew up some new doll clothes from fabric scrap and remnants, and if it were a beloved wife’s birthday or a young boy’s special day, well, maybe dad would set aside some time and take the family out to the beach. We didn’t necessarily give tangible gifts as much, we chose to utilize the other four love languages.
It wasn’t until the late 1800’s, say, 1886, that this guy, let’s call him Richard Warren Sears, came up with a great idea of developing a mail-order watch company. You could order a watch from a bare-bones catalog, and have it delivered by mail. Imagine that! Delivered right to your door without having to leave the comforts of home. Within that same year, Mr. Sears developed a working relationship with a watch repairman, whom I will call Alvah C. Roebuck for the purpose of this story. By 1893, the two men took all of that mail-order bandwidth, and together opened their very first brick and mortar Department Store in Downtown Chicago, Illinois. Yes, guess who coined the term ‘Department Store’! It was Rich and Alvah!
This here was truly the beginning of our country’s new-found consumerism, consumption, taste for toys and clothes and household chachkes and tools and more toys. It was also the beginning of international trade for low cost consumer goods, but that is a whole other story, for a whole other day, in a much different political climate.
Now maybe it’s because I began life in the Midwest that I had been saturated by the word “Sears”, (We’re talking late 60’s through early 80’s here), but it’s right now, today, this morning, as bankruptcy papers are being filed, that I feel I must sing the praises of all the Sears Stores that I have loved before…
There was the 1977 “Wish Book” full of toys and treasures, of which my very first Big Wheel materialized. Now that I think about it, yes, Sears is responsible for my insatiable thirst for all things MOPAR, but I digress.
Parents would give this big ‘ole “Wish Book” Catalog to their children, mostly in a means to keep them occupied and quiet for hours at a time. This began to take place in late August and early September. You thought putting out the holiday decorations super early was a new thing? No, it’s been going on for decades. The activity would be to circle wish list toys, or dog ear the page and let your parent/s guess what it was on the page you were wishing for. Fast-forward 30 years and I’m handing my kids a fat Target toy catalog to desecrate.
1979 – Crystal Lake, Illinois – Sears Store:
The place my dad took me in the month of November to buy my pre-teen self a pair of tan corduroy pants, maybe a bit too snug, that would last me through the winter in a Northwest Chicago Suburb. Flashback: Slipped on the black ice in the Sears parking lot and cried all the way home. Did I just say that out loud?
1985 – Santa Monica, California – Sears Store:
The home to my Goth days shopping after I would hit up the local thrift stores while cruising on the Big Blue Bus. Sears is where I could get black tights, and white tee-shirts, white ruffled bobby socks and fishnets and maybe the occasional contraband light pink sweatshirt that no respecting Goth would be caught dead wearing.
Also 1985 – The year my parents buy the Westchester, California home possessing the vintage Kenmore Oven/Stove/Microwave stackable from SEARS that is still in place today. Yes, my brother and I have been trying to replace that thing for years. Maybe this is the year.
2008 – San Clemente, Orange County, California – Sears Appliance Store: Where I buy my first NEW side-by-side Kenmore stainless steel refrigerator, without the ice maker. Who buy’s a $1,000 fridge without an ice maker? I do. The fridge is gone. The store is gone. Might still be a Kmart though.
2018 – Anywhere, USA – Sears Store: I will be doing all of my holiday shopping at any remaining stores I can find as an homage to Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck. For their amazing brainchild has discreetly shaped the lives of myself and many others who may be too ashamed to admit their love of the Sears “Wish Book”.
Post Script: Did I mention that my mom to this day will drive for hours just to shop at a Sears store, regardless of living walking distance to several other department stores and um, Amazon Prime? We’d better hurry up, Mom. We don’t have much longer.
Maybe that’s where the “Buy low, sell high” mentality comes from. Maybe it’s why I buy and sell things. Maybe it’s why I’m a baseball fanatic, and somehow find my way to Las Vegas Sportsbooks most winters to bet on league division winners and the Word Series. I don’t know.
It’s spring now, and with the Kentucky Derby right around the corner, I tend to become nostalgic of my childhood, bringing me to ask my dad about those days I spent with him and my maternal grandfather at the horse track. Each year I get more details, so I’ve decided to document them here. I wanted to write this story a year ago – who’d a thought the Cubbies would win the World Series before I could put this on the board?
Let’s start at the beginning. Back in the 1930’s, on the outskirts of Chicago, my young grandfather worker for a baker. Fresh bread, cookies and pastries, things that pre-war 1930’s housewives in the rural part of the Midwest would budget for, and present to their husbands after the evening meal, bread to make sandwiches for their husband’s lunch pails. A cookie for a well behaved young child. There wasn’t a whole lot of money being made on baked goods back then, and, well, the bakery owner would occasionally send my youthful grandfather off to ‘run’ an ‘errand’ on the train to place $2 long shot bets at Arlington Park on one specific horse.
Well, after many trips on the Great Western Railway, and hours spent placing bets on horses, or should I say, one horse that never came in, my grandfather started keeping the $2 bets and heading off to do other things with his precious time. Like maybe dating my grandmother. How would the baker know? His horse never won. As you can probably guess, in time, that losing horse finally saw its day on the track, the baker heading down to the track to claim his winnings for the bet my grandfather never placed. Needless to say, grandpa was fired that day, but that is not end of his bookmaking bakery story. He wasn’t too worried, because when you’re a bet runner, the next natural promotion is…bookmaker, no?
My grandfather did well at bet making, and it wasn’t just the ponies. He bet on baseball games, (you see, it really is in the blood!) There was this thing, back then, and maybe Cubbies fans still do it today, I’m not sure; you see, if you placed the bet before the game started that the Cubs would score 13 runs that day, well, you’d win a wad of money. Yep, he won that a few times. And you know, those Cubs are favored to win the 2018 World Series right now. It’s April, and as any fan knows, we won’t know the truth till October. Maybe early November if we play our cards right. (That was a gambling pun, by the way).
I wish I knew more stories of those days. Because I was yet to be born, my appearance in this story, or “participation” I should say, doesn’t really happen until well into the 70’s.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Grandfather works for the baker, doesn’t place a long shot bet and gets fired. Grandpa keeps betting, for himself and others, and saves enough money to open a donut shop of his own in the heart of Chicago. He was married to my grandmother by this time, it was the 1940’s and time to set up a family business. It wasn’t just any donut shop though – they sold these amazing, dense, triangle donuts, perfect for dunking in your hot coffee. And yes, my family still has the equipment and the recipe to make those very special donuts.
“How do you know I love you? I make you my grandparent’s signature triangle donuts.”
As mentioned earlier, there was not a whole lot of money in the bakery business back then. I’m not exactly sure how it came about, as the story gets a little blurry right about here, but my grandparents lost their lease on that little donut shop in downtown Chicago. It was picked up by a savvy business owner wanting to franchise. Maybe you’ve heard of it, it’s now called Winchell’s.
Meanwhile, grandpa found a job with Rembrandt Brass and Iron Company, and began the daily train commute with so many other Midwestern men in work shirts and fedoras from rural parts of Illinois into downtown Chicago. Grandma settled in working for a (not so) French Bakery that, was ironically, the former business of my grandfather’s former employer, the baker who fired him. It was also walking distance from my grandparent’s farm. (Yes, I partially grew up on a farm, but I think you kinda guessed that already). Hours of my early childhood in the 1970’s, in the late afternoons, after school and after the bakery closed, were spent with my grandmother inside that bakery. I have a penchant for buttercream roses and have consumed more than my weight in buttercream in any single year. (The way to my heart? Buttercream). For as long as I can remember, my grandmother was up at 5 am, and sometimes earlier, serving coffee and pastries to the businessmen walking across the street to the train station for their daily commute. Like clockwork, the wives would arrive back at the train station at 6:00 pm to pick up the men in the family Town and County Station Wagon. I see it so clearly. (This car is on my wish list.)
Sugar scarfing and scoring colorful, character shaped cookies and cupcakes for my friends was not all this kid was doing in the 1970’s. Nope. I was hopping on that train with my grandfather, occasionally leaving pennies on the track to be smooshed, and sometimes would travel by Cutlass or Dart with my dad and grandfather, and head to Arlington Heights to the race track. Sometimes we’d make a quick stop at a mysterious man’s house on the way and collect $1,000, (a grand, a big ‘un’) – to place a bet for him on our way to the track. Keep in mind, the median yearly income in 1975 in the United States was slightly over $14,000. This meant the average person’s month’s salary was won or lost in one day at the track, the actual bettor not present.
I was always given $2 to place a bet on a horse of my choice. I ate hot dogs and looked like a young Jodie Foster. I knew what win, place and show meant, as well as a trifecta and the Daily Double before I was 7 years old. Back in those days, a cute kid such as myself could saunter up to the betting cage and place a carefully marked out bet for myself, my dad or my grandfather. Yes, I had the racing form in my hand, and yes, they always checked to be sure I properly placed all bets once I finally found my way back to the seats, or standing and yelling spot. (With my sense of direction today, I’m not really sure how I navigated those experiences back then without having a panic attack or using a cell phone for guidance. The magic freedom and safety of the 70’s. I want that back.) Where my dad and grandfather were, and what they were doing while I was placing bets will always remain a mystery. Most likely talking and enjoying the day, I guess. I know I got bored after a while and spent endless hours picking up betting slips off the floor of the race track. Stacks. Stacks of betting slips. I WAS A STOOPER. Hours comparing these tickets to the results. I can’t remember ever winning more than $80 betting on a horse in my life, and I think I was in my 20’s by then, and that was from a $2 bet. I can’t remember winning more than $2 from the discarded betting slips as a kid. And I took the loosing slips home! What was I going to do with stacks of losing betting slips? Play with them? Are they future tax write-offs? Are gamblers born this way?
“I knew what win, place and show meant, as well as a trifecta and the Daily Double before I was 7 years old.”
In my 20’s, I always thought that I would move back to rural Illinois after having been transplanted in California, to buy that bakery and let the legacy live on. I don’t have that dream anymore. Dreams change. People change. Some things stay the same. Like the thrill of betting slips and taking a chance on your favorite things.
(Another History Lesson, this time on Contraception)
I’m predicting another boom in population during our new presidential term. It’s kind of an out there statement, but maybe not, hear me out.
Media has just told us the new Republican version of Obamacare has been unveiled. I have not taken the time to read through the program just yet, other than to see that insurance companies are predicting increases in consumer premiums. I have no idea what all the program entails.
What I can tell you is that Obamacare made birth control FREE to everyone. Ask just about any insurance holder, private or state, or pharmacy patron what they paid for a copay at the counter when picking up their birth control pills these past several years and they will tell you ZERO. Now that I think about this, you ladies already knew this, but did you men? We’ve been getting our birth control free since Obamacare was initiated!
With a repeal, a change, or funds withheld from Planned Parenthood, I can tell you right now, there are going to be a heck of a lot of babies being born in the years, 2018, 2019 and two to six more years after that. It will be a new baby boom because birth control will be harder to obtain and more expensive, especially to those who need it most.
Why am I writing this? I was at the pharmacy the other day, and I heard women in line speaking of “stocking up” on their contraception while it’s still free. STOCKPILING. Stockpiling birth control pills to be more precise. (Gosh, I wonder what the effective rate is when those have been shelved and stockpiled for a while.)
Because this is a generational blog, a GEN X blog to be precise, let’s look back at population size for the last 100 years or so:
The Silent Generation (1925-1945) Wartime. A large gen because there was no BC, but Smaller than the upcoming generation…
The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) The largest generation, our current ‘Silver Tsunami’
And there’s us, man…
Generation X (1965-1980) We are a much smaller (smallest?) gen, and “why?” you ask?
Since you asked, let me tell you. I’m about to get a little graphic on ya, folks. Bear with me. (Cringe emoji goes here.)
It’s all about the birth of the birth control pill. Here’s some history on that.
Ancient Egyptian women use a combination of cotton, dates, honey and acacia as a suppository, and it turns out fermented acacia really does have a spermicidal effect. The Bible and the Koran both refer to coitus interruptus (the withdrawal method). Folks were using that since the beginning of time. Read: Folk remedies, abstinence, rhythm method, withdrawal method, condoms. Really, that is all there was until 1960 when The Pill was approved for contraceptive use.
1962 The Pill is an instant hit! After two years, 1.2 million Americans women are on the pill; after three years, the number almost doubles, to 2.3 million. (We are being downsized prior to birth!)
It’s 1964, but The Pill is still controversial: It remains illegal in eight states. The Pope convenes the Commission on Population, the Family and Natality; many within the Catholic Church are in favor. The Gen Xer’s like us are getting ready to make our debut.
It’s 1965, five years after the FDA’s approval, 6.5 million American women are on The Pill, making it the most popular form of birth control in the U.S. Some of our moms had our arrival marked on the calendar about now, and some just forgot to take The Pill a few days.
Along with this comes the women’s rights movement. We’ve got The Pill in our knapsacks and we can control our pregnancies!
You see, between ’65 and ’80 (and well into today) our generation was limited to those of us who evade the drug blocking our momma’s eggs. We are a smaller generation for it.
But what will happen when Obamacare is repealed or amended or changed all together and women can no longer get easy and affordable access to birth control? I will tell you.
We will have a much LARGER Gen Alpha (2011-2025). There will be more births in just a 14 year time span then we could ever imagine. (We can talk about this again in just 8 years!)
Just ask the ladies lined up at your local pharmacy doing their stockpiling.
Let’s begin by saying that if you want to discuss the intricacies and fine inner workings of the history of NAFTA, I’m not your girl, as I’m not here to pick a fight with anyone. I am however here to give you a brief historical outline and share some nuances about the NAFTA project and it’s players, as well as offer a mental picture that silhouettes the start-up and the inevitable decline or demise of this lofty 3 country joint effort.
If you’ve grown-up, come of age, and/or participated in life in the US, Canada or Mexico, (or even watched television or made purchases) during this NAFTA generation (Generation X), you may already have an idea about what NAFTA is. You may have watched the initiative show up on nightly news broadcasts, in newspapers or referenced on voting ballots. If not, here’s a layman’s description:
NAFTA stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is a comprehensive agreement that sets the rules for international trade and investment between the United States, Canada and Mexico. It’s a very lengthy and complex document of over 2,000 pages, spanning multiple American presidential administrations. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have weighed in on, interpreted and eventually approved NAFTA. It has been a “thing” for the past 25 some-odd years.
There is much discussion as to whether or not this agreement was an initially good idea, if opening a three-way county trade has indeed been beneficial, or if putting this agreement into place was just decades of misguided investment and trade ideas, initially developed by a bipartisan think tank back in the late 1970’s. I’m picturing some smart, groovy dudes stating, “Hey! Let’s open the borders, we’ll make piles of money, it will be good for everyone!”
NAFTA was originally proposed by President Ronald Reagan, eventually signed by President George H.W. Bush, implemented by President Bill Clinton, defended by George W. Bush and for the most part, ignored by our 44th President, Barack Obama. Considering the fact that we are talking about free trade, doing business between 3 countries in North America and keeping the lines of communication (and trade) open, and given our (the US) current choice of American President, it almost goes without saying that the agreement of free trade may be coming to a complete and screeching halt. If you are a visual learner, let’s look at it this way:
Chances are, whatever work you do or have done, you have somehow participated in, been touched by, or purchased something that may not have been possible without NAFTA. Maybe you’ve worked in the automotive industry and have seen jobs come and go, maybe your own. Maybe you work in oil, or farming. You may already have a good idea of how NAFTA has invisibly touched each one of us, in both tangible and in intangible ways. It has strengthened our economy during the times when we have been open minded and willing to take a chance on growth. On the law of reciprocity.
Here’s a personal example. Here’s one my sweethearts:
As a female GenXer growing up and coming of age during the times of NAFTA, I developed a keen interest in the automotive industry. Maybe it was my Midwestern roots, maybe it was being born into a family with a father as a mechanic, maybe it was just what I was exposed to. Cars have been my thing. About 10 years ago, automakers recognized there was a surge of consumers with quite a bit of expendable income created in a new-found (if not price paid) economy, and decided to resurrect the American made muscle car in the form of bringing back the original body styles. Now, keep in mind, this could not be done without the help from our other North American friends, both Mexico and Canada to be specific. Whenever I’m at a dealership, car show, or a place where other auto enthusiasts converge and are in the know, they will ask me, (sometimes mocking, sometimes not) “Mexico?” and I will respond with, “No, Canada!” This means that my American made beauty actually possesses a Canadian birth certificate. As mentioned in my opening line, things get complicated when we talk about intricacies and where parts were made and products were assembled, and it’s all outlined in that 2,000 page document called The North American Free Trade Agreement. If it weren’t for this agreement, you and I would have experienced a life much different than the one we’ve known over the past two, going on three decades. And if you followed the six figure photo chart above, you may begin to realize that life as we now know it, is about to change drastically. Whether it be good or bad, that’s left for the financial analysts to decided, our golden years to witness, and our children to reap the benefits or unravel the mess.
On a hot summer day in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was publicly addressing our parents and our grandparents in one of our country’s most well-known civil rights demonstrations in Washington D.C.
The truth is, he actually was addressing us, the unborn constituents, inherent of our country’s legacy. The Future.
Have we done right by him? Would he be proud of what we have accomplished?
In the 70’s and 80’s in elementary and middle school, we spent a lot of time studying civil rights and the teachings, of Dr. King, our educators having watched his now famous speech first hand on television, and reread it in the newspapers, mindfully preparing their lesson plans. We were a passionate society, back then. No internet, computers about to give birth.
The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later, around the time I was exiting high school, (equipped with the teachings of those passionate educators). At first, some states resisted observing the holiday, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. I actually remember this. I can tell you which two states put up the biggest stink.
It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in the year 2000. This was the year my first child was born, and kids began to observe the third Monday of January as a day off school.
This morning, on the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I asked my 16 and 12 year old daughters if they knew who Martin Luther King was. It went like this:
Me to oldest: “Do you know who Martin Luther King, Jr. was?”
Oldest: “He made that ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”
Me to oldest: “Do you know what it was about?”
Oldest: “Civil Rights.” (End of conversation, as that is as far as her 11th grade education has provided so far, or as much of an impression that has been made in her 16 years of celebrating this national holiday.)
Me to Youngest: “Do You know who Martin Luther King, Jr. was?”
Youngest: “Didn’t he go to prison?”
Oldest to Youngest: “No, that was Nelson Mandela.”
That was the end of the conversation, and when I sat down to share a gift with you.
Given what I just witnessed, I feel I wouldn’t be doing my job as a U.S. Citizen, a believer in Civil Rights, a parent, and as a GenXer if I didn’t share the entire speech for you to read, as this is an important and integral part of American History, if not World History, and deserves to be brought out to the light for all ages. I would be so impressed by he who can cast this to memory. Enjoy, and Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“I Have a Dream”
By Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Public Address, The March on Washington, August 28, 1963
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Ronald Reagan was my favorite president, and I’ve gotten to see and live through a few of them.
Regardless of what you may think, this is not a political post, but a sincere toast to a man that I never for one second felt lacked in class in any way. Maybe also a sincere toast to a few of the men I’ve loved before.
My first love was Mr. President Gerald R. Ford. In 1976, I was proud to be an American, and participate in the greatest party of all time. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve been to a more fun party since. I’m talking about the 200 year Bicentennial celebration of our country. I can’t help but to remember standing in the mid-western market with my mom, buying ears of corn for a front yard BBQ on the Fox River, eyeing the Bicentennial posters (oh, if I could have one now!) and listening to my absolute favorite song coming out of a car radio speaker… Bohemian Rhapsody. (OK, my secret favorite song was 50 ways to Leave Your Lover and I still know the words by heart). I was 8 years old. I felt safe.
The following year, my heart would be absolutely crushed. Not by the boy who would swing his (or mine, more details below) metal lunch pail at me when I tried to kiss him at the bus stop leaving me with a black eye – there’s a picture somewhere), but by the fact that the man who made me feel so safe and alive in my country was leaving office. This incoming new guy’s name was Jimmy Carter. It was one of the first big changes in my young life. Could he live up? Does he have good quotes?
When I was in elementary school, I learned to love President Jimmy Carter, though my young heart still missing Gerald wanted to call this new guy Mr. Peanut. That was, of course because unfortunate weather caused a peanut drought in the very later part of the 1970’s and my mom and I went from small town market to market looking for just one jar of my sustenance. The magic ingredient between the bread and the jelly which was loving placed inside my beloved Speed Buggy metal lunch box. I remember having a conversation with my mom about not being able to accept the new president. She assured me the peanut drought would be over soon. (He’s got the biggest smile – swoon – and he will live to see the cure for Guinea Worm, of which he’s fought so hard for a cure (love).
We would soon have the second oil crisis of my young life, and I would learn the ins and outs of odd-even rationing. I was ten years old by this time, and developed a keen eye for license plate numbers. I preferred to watch people waiting in gas lines on the television (this was before sensationalism and #fakenews) than actually have to sit in the back seat of the Cutlas with my 6 year old brother in the midwestern humid swelter. Someone might see me for gosh sakes! I should have supported my mom more and waited in those lines with her. Looking back now, I’m sorry Mom, that wasn’t fair you waited in those long lines alone during a legitimate crisis.
But then we had an even bigger thing to worry about. It was 1981 and time to escape my safe rural suburban life northwest of Chicago and move to California, where I would of course meet the Beach Boys and become Miss America. And sure enough, we arrive, and not long after, the most wonderful man ever to run for office and run a country was elected as our POTUS and took office. I arrived in Los Angeles just in time to watch the inaugural celebration in my 6th grade classroom. The man had So. Much. Class.
I began to feel safe again. I lived through the peanut shortage, the two gas shortages, now there would be plenty of everything for everybody. It was the 80’s and The Gipper was my president! No wait, hold on. The Chicago Tylenol Murders just went down from the place I had just left. Was that laced Tylenol meant for me, and I just got super lucky on accident? I am never taking Tylenol again, I said to my now almost 13 year old self.
** It is 2017 and I STILL have not taken Tylenol. Lots of other things, sure, but you will never find a Tylenol bottle in my home. Superstitious much? Yes.
I’m in middle school now and they are putting me in debate class. Not all my friends had to live this punishment. I would never elect this class. I wondered if they took the absolute most shy kids they had and threw them into a debate class with the most aggressive 8th graders they had, just to see what would happen. They had to have.
My debate was going to be titled: “Why did you try to kill me with Tylenol?” but for whatever reason, the teacher at the time rejected my submission and gave me a new topic of debate. I was going to have to reach out to some very important people and get some help now.
Let me help you out there. The title of the debate reads:
“Should the United States Rule Out a Nuclear First Strike?”
What? Holly Heck!
Please note, my position was a resounding YES!
How I pulled that off, well, to this day I will never know. I reached out to everyone I could think of who was as terrified at the thought of a Nuclear First Strike as I was. I received personal letters (not form letters, mind you) from the following, who important at the time, continued to go on to do even bigger things: Senator Alan Cranston, Senator Pete Wilson (before he was Governor), California State Assembly Member Tom Hayden, Congress Member Mel Levine, Anne Higgins, who was the Special Assistant to the President, assuring me that President Reagan too wants peace, a very thoughtful and well written letter from VP George Bush and the piece de resistance… the speech given by President Regan to Scholars honoring Excellence in Education and Nuclear Arms Reduction made on June 16, 1983.
Less than 2 years later, the man put an end to the Cold War.
So, in closing, I ask you again. If President Reagan were alive today, would he take to Twitter himself? I think not. His Library, of course, (I love following the Ronald Reagan Library on Twitter!)
Post Scripts: I still collect Bicentennial quarters, so keep your coin purse out of my sight or I will take them from you. (Or come play coins with me). I’ve blocked out the name of the boy with the eye blackening swing – rats! I would have acknowledged him today. To my 12 year old daughter, stop watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix and go write your government officials about something important. Please. And to everyone else, if you are the rare individual who wants to read my debate from the 80’s and see and touch these amazing historical documents, HMU, K?