Casting long shadows into the future, I watched the young black woman speak a poem of healing and possibility, and I felt such pride. Too often, as members of an earlier generation, we pedantically speak of the next generations as lacking understanding of what this nation is or could be.
We think that because we’ve lived through some of the worst times of racial relations, that we alone can comprehend what’s best for the country, as though our children and grandchildren have been raised in isolation from what occurs in the country each day. But, yesterday, a young woman, the first Youth Poet Laureate of this country orated a picture of what we can be, absent words of vendettas and revenge.
As I listended in awe at the healing words of her poetry, I cried. What was so wonderful for me was that she wasn’t ashamed of her past or her single mother or of being black. Her words helped us to see that healing is possible, through unity, President Biden’s theme for his presidency. I read that he chose her, because like him, she once had a speech impediment. It is good to know that common suffering unites people across races and generations.
I think the part of her poem that touched me most was when she said that the United States wasn’t broken, it was simply unfinished. I thought of Dr. King’s Dream that one day America would rise up and live out it’s true creed that all men are created equal. That theme of unfinished possibility was echoed so brilliantly by this young woman.
Without lionizing her, as the media are doing today, I watched her use the beauty of words to tell a nation of diverse peoples that unity is the answer. She basically asked the older generations to put our divisions behind us, and for each of us to do the work of healing a nation that has shown over the last 60 years that it can change in ways that bring hope and opportunity to those once ignored.
She made me want to be a light that shines in the darkness of these times of crises, to help illuminate the way for our new president and vice-president, to make their jobs easier, for, God knows, they are facing a huge challenge. But most of all, she gave me hope because she represents the next generations, and, to me she showed us decisively that they understand the past, are bothered by the present, and recognize that the legacies we create are the future for generations not yet even born. We owe it to them to find a way to each other’s arms today!