This week, Barack and Michelle Obama made me feel small.
In their words, their dignity, their hope and more than anything else, their vision of America, they made me realize that I have lost my way.
When Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high,” I realized that I have too often gone low. I have met hateful rhetoric with snide put downs and broad generalizations. I have not lived up to her faith in us.
When Barack Obama says “That’s America. Those bonds of affection; that common creed. We don’t fear the future; we shape it, embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own,” I realized that I have too often lost sight of America, denying the existence of a common creed.
It is too easy in the liberal milieu in which I live to get caught up in all that is wrong with this country and let the very real failures of our country obscure what is good about it. It is too easy to point out problems without ever offering solutions. It is too easy to be ashamed of our history and not see all that there is within it of which we can be proud.
For although we have the original sin of slavery we also have the emancipation proclamation, the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act. And the work is not done. Although we began as a nation that did not recognize the rights of women, we also have the 19th Amendment and the expansion of rights for women (including Hillary’s nomination). And there remains work to be done. Our history of xenophobia exists with our embrace of immigrants. There is work to do.
The Obama’s reminded me that doing that work is also American. It is part of our history as surely as the darker parts. And that is something be proud of. We may not live up to the values of our founding documents, but we continue to grow and strive to make a more perfect union. It is slow and hard work. But it is important work. It is American work.
Michelle and Barack Obama, people who have every right to be angry, bitter and resentful, offered a loving, hopeful view of what America is and can be. They reminded me of what I love about this country. If they can go high, surely I can. If they can believe in the goodness of the American people, surely I can.
President Obama presented a view of America last night in stark contrast to the one the Republicans presented the week before. It was full of faith in the promise of America and Americans- of we and not me. It was a vision for all of us- left, right and center.
The Obamas made me see the ways I have become small and narrow and they invited me to let my heart be big and spacious. They reminded me of the America I love- the America we are all still building.
Thank-you, Barack and Michelle Obama, for eight years of dignity and class and for letting me see this great country through your eyes.