Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What I'm Grateful For

I want to take a moment to be grateful. I have a lot to be grateful for these days.

First and foremost, I'm so grateful that there are liberal activists in the world who fight every day, often at great sacrifice, not for private wealth, not for personal health, not for public recognition. So many sacrificed their own happiness, risked their reputations, and in many case, risked their lives to give us the quality of life we take for granted today.

I started my day reading a wonderful article about "the most effective activist Angelenos never heard of," about Willis Edwards, who, among billions of other acts, was the one who got President Clinton to acknowledge Rosa Parks in the State of the Union address. You'd think that would have been a no-brainer, but Edwards had to strategize like crazy to make this happen:

Willis Edwards had always dreamed that civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks would one day be honored in a State of the Union address. So, L.A. activist legend Edwards did what he usually does when he has a dream. He negotiated. “I had this idea if Mrs. Parks was in [then-President] Clinton’s speech, that moment would take away all the negativity of the impeachment,” the 60-year-old civil rights leader remembers. “So, on the day of the [1999] State of the Union, we brought Mrs. Parks to D.C. And then I went through a firestorm of negotiations.”

Looking back, the concept was so perfect, it’s hard to imagine that the Clintons didn’t think of it themselves. But, according to Edwards, it almost didn’t happen. “I got ‘maybe’ and ‘maybe not.’ You have to be invited. So, I called up the speaker’s office [Dennis Hastert, R-Il.] and said, ‘Could you give Mrs. Parks three tickets in your box?’ That’s the speaker of the House and he’s a Republican, right? Then I went back to the Clinton people and said, ‘The speaker says we can have tickets in his box.’"

Within an hour, Edwards, who sits on the National Board of Directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), got a call back from the Clinton camp. “The first lady would like Mrs. Parks to sit in her box,” the caller said.

Edwards laughs, remembering how Parks got a seven-minute standing ovation from Congress that night. “Then it became, ‘Oh my God, this was such a great idea.’”

“So after all that negotiation we can look back and say it finally happened. You have to be persistent about what you want.”

God bless Willis Edwards and Rosa Parks.

I'm grateful that we once had a liberal activist in the White House named John F. Kennedy. I'm grateful he appointed his brother Bobby to be his Attorney General, and his most honest, conscientious sounding board. The two stood alone against the others in their administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis, refusing to resort to war, finding another, peaceful way, to end the nuclear showdown. God bless the Kennedy brothers who gave their lives in their quest to find a peace beyond a "Pax Americana:"

What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children-not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. . . .

First: Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.

We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade; therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as be wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.

I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the values of hopes and dreams, but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.

Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions - on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace, no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process, a way of solving problems.

With such a peace there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor; it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. . . .

God bless the Kennedys.

I'm grateful for people like Michael Jay, one of Los Angeles' little-known but fabulous activists. Michael is patient and kind, passionate and dogged. He's been a diehard on the electronic voting issue for the last few years, which is how I met him. When I had a particularly bad day, he called me to give me hope, to tell me what I did mattered. He leads with his heart. He's sacrificed time he could have used to pursue a more lucrative career. He's a composer and a screenwriter, and both of those require endless amounts of time. But amazingly, he always finds time to help the right cause, to go the extra mile. He singlehandely organized one of the biggest evoting events in Los Angeles - an event so big it drew a surprise appearance from country registrar Conny McCormack, whose disdain for activists is palpable. But she came, because the event was important. And it was important because Michael Jay had stepped up and done what needed to be done. No one asked him to do it. No one paid him to do it. He just saw a need, and filled it. God bless Michael Jay.

God bless Al Gore. As the greatest elected president not allowed to serve, Gore found a way to lead in other areas. He singlehandedly elevated the debate on global warming from a fringe issue to a mainstream story. I don't intend to demean or ignore all the activists who worked with Al Gore on his groundbreaking film, "An Inconvenient Truth." Far from it. But Al Gore could have sailed off into the sunset, grumbled over the spilt milk, or gotten fat (or lean) doing speaking engagements. But he chose to put his fame and credibility on the line for something that couldn't possibly matter more - the survival of life as we know it on this planet. (Yes, it's that serious, and if you don't believe that, you're part of the problem. Join reality. Start here.)

God bless Ida Tarbell. What, you ask? She died 62 years ago! But her serialized master work on the History of the Standard Oil Company, founded by John D. Rockefeller, still stands as one of the most important biographies of a company ever produced. Her series was so compelling it ultimately led to the breakup of the Standard Oil Trust. Or so the story should have ended. The sad truth was, the Rockefellers maintained control of all the little Standard Oil spinoffs that were created. But that's not Tarbell's fault. In a day when woman raised children or taught to support their spinster lives, she traveled to France and studied how to tell history. The funny thing is, she never though she was much of a writer. But she toppled the Rockefeller empire. I'd say she knew what she was doing!

Grey's Anatomy. Now's there's something to be grateful for. No matter my week, it all ends the moment that show starts. That and 24 are the only shows I want to watch live, as they happen. I plan to be home at those times. I turn on the set in eager anticipation. I watch the episdes live. Then I watch them again on TiVo (God bless TiVo!) Grey's is one of those rare shows that usually makes me laugh and sob in the same episode. I love all the characters, their interconnected woes and triumphs, the love stories, the surgical stories, and the pure heart that radiates through every episode. God bless Grey's Anatomy, its entire above and below the line crew, and creator Shonda Rhimes. You go, girl!! A woman showrunner on TV's most successsful show. Take a hint, Hollywood! (And don't miss Grey's special two-hour episode after your Thanksgiving Dinner!)

Most importantly, God bless you, dear reader. You care deeply about finding the truth about our real history. If I thought people didn't care I wouldn't waste my time writing. But you let me know in comments, in emails, in page views, in links, that our true history continues to matter. God bless Real History Lovers, my friends, and my family, all of whom support me in ways they may not fully understand. I am so very grateful.

I'll end with a quote that brought me to tears this morning, from Willis Edwards, the activist mentioned at the start, who continues his activism even through his battle with AIDS:
We have a responsibility to do what we can as individuals in our lives. If you see something wrong, stand up and be counted. You might have AIDS, you might have cancer, but pick up the phone and lead from where you are.
Lead from where you are. I, the World, and Real History will be ever so grateful.

God Bless, and Happy Thanksgiving.


Blogger Caryl said...

Thanks, Lisa, for this post and for
your site.

8:00 AM  

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