Off The Press
January 27, 2009
By Greg Farrar
The possibilities are at last endless for all
An open letter to the students in Susan Adler’s fifth-grade classroom at Issaquah Valley Elementary School:
Congratulations on your opportunity to watch Barack Obama’s inauguration as president! You set a great example of patriotism and knowledge about how our government works by the amount of attention you gave to the ceremony. It sounded like your teacher had taught you a lot leading up to the day.Your parents and your teacher certainly made it special with putting on your own Inauguration Breakfast party. Several of you were wearing red, white and blue clothes. It was also great to see you all waving flags when Obama was introduced, and how you all stood up when he and Vice President Joe Biden took their oaths of office.
I could tell by your laughter that you enjoyed the benediction prayer by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, when he said, “And in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen, say amen and amen.”
You also really made me laugh at the end when former President Bush got on the helicopter and as it took off from the Capitol building many of you waved back at the television screen and yelled, “Bye, Bush!”
Erik Nelson, you told me it was really very cool. You added, “I’m looking forward to my first chance to vote. It’s going to be fun. I thought about running for office. Once, I wanted to be president. I’d still like to be a congressman or maybe president.”
“It was a privilege to experience it here with my son. It was historic and a great opportunity,” said your father Bob Nelson. “We’re starting to witness Martin Luther King’s dream come true. We’re becoming a color-blind society and I think that’s a great thing.”
Several of you girls talked about the other candidates.
“It would’ve been cool if Hillary Clinton was president, because she would’ve been the first woman. And also her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, so she has good experience.”
And if John McCain won?
“It wouldn’t change anything, really,” said one.
“Except for Sarah Palin,” said another.
“Oh, yeah, Sarah Palin would be the first woman vice president,” said the first one. “It would make history either way!”
“He’s gonna, like, change the economy, and I think there’s still a lot of racism in America, and I think he’s going to try to stop it,” another one said about Obama.
Vanessa Morris, I noticed you were a black student and I asked what you would think if Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, were your sisters.
“If they were my sisters, oh, I would love it,” you said. “I think they’re really nice people, actually, because I watched them at the Kids’ Inaugural. I just really would like to meet them. I think they have a friendly personality. I wish Malia was my big sister.”
Then, you added, “I’m looking forward to Barack changing the economy. I want to see how the economy is going to change and become different from when George Bush was president, so we’ll know if he’s really the best president when the economy starts changing.”
You young people also used the words fantastic, exciting, historical, amazing, inconceivable, funny, stupendous, changing, outstanding and joyful to describe the ceremony for our 44th president.
And one of you said it was sad that Martin Luther King Jr. made the “I Have A Dream” speech, but he wasn’t here to see the dream come true. What I think he might say is, that’s all right with him. He said he’d seen the Promised Land and might not get there with us. What was important to him was that a class of fifth-graders like yourselves actually has arrived.
I hope you all remember this inauguration your entire lives. Years from now, if you were to look back at this clipping or relive your breakfast party, perhaps what you will remember is that in your very diverse classroom on this day, your parents and teacher wanted to celebrate something special with you. That something was the fact that, for you, their hopes for you had no limits, and the entire world of possibilities truly was opened up to each of you, for the first time in our country’s history.