I am a lucky woman.
Yesterday a colleague forwarded me an email with a PDF attached. The PDF was a ticket to attend President Obama’s Farewell address. Since I was out of town this weekend and missed the chance to line up for a ticket, I had resigned myself to watching from my couch with Twitter for company.
Instead I pared down my purse to essentials, charged my phone, ate a protein bar and went to McCormick Place to wait in the security line for over two hours.
I ran into friends, lost them in the crowd and found them again. There were 20,000 people in the room last night, so it was amazing I saw anyone I knew once, let alone twice.
When I started going to synagogue, I found out that I liked a good sermon. I appreciate soaring words, vivid stories and hard evidence. Tell me what you know, tell me what you believe and I will be moved. We got a good sermon last night.
His speeches have always soared.
I have a clear memory of the Obama’s 2004 DNC speech. I was walking down Leland Ave in Chicago from Lincoln to my apartment on Damen. It seemed like every TV was turned to the DNC to see our candidate for Senator give a speech. I stopped outside of an open window to listen to bits and pieces, not knowing in 12 years speeches like that would be available in my pocket on a smartphone.
I admire President Obama.
I have a long list of criticisms and disappointments with his administration, but my overarching feeling is admiration.
At points last night, I felt like he was giving a eulogy for our experiment in democracy. Could his administration be the final movement in our “great unfinished symphony” or will we resist and protect our democracy.
At other points, I felt like it was a call to action.
Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we will.
Here are my commitments to protecting our democracy.
1. I will not isolate myself from friends or strangers. There have been days since the election when it has been hard to get out of bed, hard to laugh, hard to believe there is a future. If we are going to save our country, it will be with other people.
2. I will continue to vote in every election, but I will spend more time working on expanding the voter base. I was inspired when I saw Keith Ellison speak last week about expanding the voter base. I will canvas. I will make phone calls. I will help enfranchise more people.
3. I will support the work of Being Black at School. Systemic racism in our public schools must be dismantled and I know that their team are the people to do it. I’m chairing their Chicago event on April 1st, but will do even more to continue to support their work.
4. I will support journalism through paid subscriptions, disabling my ad blocker and being kind to the journalists in my life.
5. I will not retreat from Jewish life. I have struggled since the election with silence from Jewish organizations and foundations. With the exception of the Reform Movement, Repair the World and If Not Now, very few Jewish organizations have been banging the drum for freedom. While I don’t think I’ve moved much from center, I feel like the organized Jewish world has moved further away from me. 12 years after my conversion, I’m struggling to maintain a Jewish identity and feel that I still belong in the organized Jewish world. I won’t retreat. I’ll call the foundations that are important to me and keep asking that they speak up.
6. When I find simple actions to take, I will continue to share them. Clear call to actions that I have verified as useful and deemed (this is personal) necessary.
7. I will focus on my health and our healthcare system. According to my physicians, I’m not the only person with new medical problems since the election. I will work to improve my health, but also find ways to help people understand the healthcare system.
That’s my plan.
I think each of us will have different priorities in the years ahead. I hope beyond hope that we each find ways to lift strangers up when we lift our families up. And in turn, we lift our towns, cities and country up.