(The above is the first page of Jefferson's handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence.)
What is it that first got you interested in politics or history or civic involvement? Was is a particular charismatic politician who encouraged you to get up and help campaign, holding signs or making calls or attending rallies? Was it a particular problem with a local issue that got you up and out to a city council meeting or on the phone with your representative's office? Or some particular piece of literature or history that sparked an interest for you?
For me, it was a play for the American bicentennial celebration that my elementary school put on when I was in the first grade. Strangely enough, I was selected to play Josiah Bartlett in our little production and I had one whole line — I got to stand up, point heavenward with my right index finger and shout "Independence!" (Hey, I was the only first grader with a speaking part — I guess they figured that I couldn't mess up a single word too much.)
I considered it an omen when that was the name selected for the President in the West Wing, frankly, and I'm awfully glad it turned out to be such a well done show about politics and human nature, because I have loved the name Josiah ever since the first grade.
So often, the West Wing was inspiring, and the scripts were so well done, that I found myself hoping that we'd get a President and a White House full of the characters on the show…that has been especially true since reality has not come close to living up to my hopes for the Oval Office's current occupant. It is important when looking at leaders that we see them as human beings, flaws included. I'd just like my next President with fewer flaws where it really counts, thanks. But I digress…
Words have the power to lift us up, or to enable us to feel the despair or the hope or the fear, that our fellow human beings are feeling. The amazing use of language that you see in the Declaration of Independence and in a lot of the documents of our nation's founding, as well as the letters and other writings of the Founders themselves give you a glimpse into who these men were at their core — warts and all. And so many other leaders of this nation, and of other nations around the globe, have shone a little light upon the rest of us, illuminating some dark corner with a light of understanding that we had never before been able to see.
Language has power, and it can lift us up from the darkest of corners to the highest peaks of the mountaintops, ringing out across the land in a cry of freedom.
Reader RevDeb sent me an idea for a post, that I think is perfect for this Saturday before the election. She asked if it would be possible to do something wherein we all share the words that inspire us — quotes, passages, bit and pieces from leaders that we admire. It is inspired, and I thought we could all enjoy this today.
But I want to take it a step further, and not just concentrate on specific quotes — although I cannot wait to read the ones that you all share — but also books or particular documents or writers or even music that lifts you up and inspires you to work toward the better angels of your nature.
I've shared a number of quotes from Dr. King in the past that I think are wonderful. I have also pulled out the Henry V speech on St. Crispin's Day on occasion. And more recently, linked up some YouTube footage from Dr. King and from John F. Kennedy — all of which is very inspiring for me. But this quote, I think, is particularly applicable to the wonderful commenters we have on the blog. And I wanted to share this with everyone this morning — it's from Margaret Mead:
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
What you are doing, every day with all of the GOTV calls, and canvassing, and support of local and national candidates and all of our Blue America donors…whatever it is that you are doing, you are changing the way politics is being done in America. And you are changing the world. Thank you for that.
RevDeb also sent along several quotes that she finds inspirational. She and a lot of our MassRoots gang and readers from NY and CT and all over, will be canvassing and making calls for the Lamont campaign this weekend, and I want to share Deb's quotes with everyone this morning because they are great ones:
"On some positions, cowardice asks the question is it safe, expediency asks the question is it politic, vanity asks the question is it popular, conscience asks the question is it right. And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but we must take it because conscience tells us it is right." MLK Jr from the Letter from the Birmingham Jail
"Tikkun Olam (to heal and repair the world) We are not obligated to complete the work, nor are we free to abandon it" Rabbi Tarfun
"The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!"' John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)
"There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizens cannot cure." Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)
So, what inspires you? Which words do you find particularly illuminating or energizing? What gets you going…or keeps you going on the down days? We have only four days to go until the election, but sometimes it can be very valuable to fill up the well a bit, lest it run dry. So, pull up a chair…