There are different kinds of memories. Events and happenings. Climactic moments. Hallmark days, such as a wedding, a funeral, a graduation. There are other memories that run deeper. Memories of…scents…sounds…sight. Memories of emotion and feeling are perhaps the strongest. The overwhelming moment when something happened inside of you; it changed the way you thought or felt about something. Like you could almost feel your brain morphing. The light bulb went on. The “aha” moment. The door shutting – for good this time – on a path of the past, a path that had been worn down and was going nowhere, and you struggled to get out of its rut, and now you can. These moments are, as they say, more ’emblazoned in our memories’ – because they go to our core – our heart and soul – they become more memorable because we were changed in that moment, that moment that we’ll always remember. We are different going forth.
This week the President gave an interview on radio which was somewhat controversial – but he stood rock solid, with a smile to his critics. Something had changed in him. A light bulb moment. An “aha” moment. A door shutting, or perhaps opening. He put it simply when he said it: “I’m fearless now.” With that familiar jaunty full-faced smile we see more of these days.
This week I listened to a speech made by our new “fearless” President, this new Barack Obama. And as he was expected to do, but no one could have truly anticipated, he gave a rousing one. But he went beyond rousing. He made a substantive one. He used high emotion, tragedy and deliverance to talk about issues that our country has yet to solve – poverty, poor educational systems, unfair housing, gun control, mass incarceration, jobs, racism, subtle prejudice – and he couched it all in the word “grace”. Not “hope”, but “grace”.
And as natural as the gently waving program books in that church of 5,400 people – and in our homes and offices as we listened – our President began to sing. Low and deep he began. With the words, “Amazing grace. How sweet the sound…”.
I closed my eyes. I wanted to remember this day. Friday, June 26, 2015. I wanted to emblazon its memory into my mind. I wanted it to change me. I wanted to call my children to gather and listen, but I was frozen watching this all transpire. And as I thought of my children, grown and working now, I remembered Tuesday, January 20th, 2009. My daughters were 20 and 22. Just coming of age in this adult world. We sat in the living room with snacks. Dip and chips, Guacamole, Nachos, and fruit. We wore our baseball caps of red, white and blue – one for each of us – with the word “HOPE” stitched right on them. And we watched our President take the oath of office. He delivered another speech that day – and it was a rousing great one, too.
I remember thinking back to another day – September 11th, 2001. The day when hope died. When ‘future’ seemed grim and hard to imagine. My daughters were 12 and 14. I knew on that day as I watched them come home from school, that their lives had changed. Forever. 2001 began a time of war and fear in our country – faded only somewhat into the hope and change promised to us in 2009. Things seemed so bright. There was hope again.
Six years we have walked this path with the first black president in our country’s history. We have seen polarization and stagnation – and yes, we have seen change, and progress. Healthcare. Immigration. Employment. Yesterday we watched as same-sex marriage become the law of the land – and in a moment of glory and grace it became – just – “Marriage”.
We have watched our President age and turn grey. The memory of that promised hope has tinged grey, too. But he has moved beyond hope. As legacy looms in his mind and for history, he has moved the conversation along and called upon ‘grace’. He says he’s fearless now. He carries this new state of being with him, as he carries forth with a song from deep inside. He’s making new memories. With new words. Grace. Fearless. Legacy. He says he would have been a better president – today – than he was. Self-awareness is not lacking here.
But what can we learn? Have we learned that “hope and change” is not a plan? Do we need to conjure up some grace to lead ourselves along? And, if we can conjure up being fearless…think what we might do? Legacy looms closer at my age. The older-agers that 20 year olds grow weary of having around, are so important to moving hope and change along. The young-invincibles with a lifetime ahead of them, with things we need in this country – spark, energy, new ideas, and yes, hope. But fear stalks the young. It limits them. It holds them back. Fear of speaking out. Of repercussions. Of loss of friends, colleagues, or opportunities. Of career short-circuiting. Of brass-ring missing.
But with the legacy years comes a sense of fearlessness. And that is power. Yes, it’s time to perfect the chocolate chip cookies – to be remembered forever for. And to try for that hole in one. But let’s not drift away too far. Together, wrapped in hope, wrapped by grace, together, think what memories we could make. Think what legacies there could be, not just for us as people, but for these United States.