Child’s Play

This weekend the NYT Magazine ran a piece about the Obama marriage that quoted Obama on the significance of his election. When Michelle Obama asked him during the primary season what would distinguish his Presidency from that of other Democratic candidates Obama replied,

“When I take that oath of office, there will be kids all over this country who don’t really think that all paths are open to them, who will believe they can be anything they want to be,” Barack replied.  “And I think the world will look at America a little differently.”

Certainly, Obama’s Nobel Prize, controversial or not, has proven the latter part of his statement to be true.   I don’t think we’ve even begun to register in this country the profound shift in international attitudes and climates that will result from this Presidency.

But I was especially gratified to read the first part, because before I read this statement I wrote in an essay:

During the Primaries, I knew that whether we elected Clinton or Obama, either would signal a new order, one which concretized academic theorizing about diversity and identity politics.  In one historic ballot, many more children would be able to look at the person inhabiting the highest office in our country and say the President Looks Like Me.  And for them it really would mean that anything was possible.

So, when my daughter professed her single-minded Clinton love, I understood exactly what having a woman President would mean to the rest of her childhood (and probably the rest of her life).  If Clinton were to become President, not only could Ella play softball, or football, or run a Fortune 500 company or innovate a new technology, but Being President would become a Viable Career Option.  A Clinton Presidency would be, for my daughter, a revolutionary fact.  Perhaps not quite so revolutionary as getting the vote, but certainly it would signal a seachange in the national female psyche.  It would be a vision, a game changer, something akin to Phillipe Petit’s dance in the air.

And in the wake of the Clinton run and Obama’s victory, it has proven true that my privileged, middle-class white children do see politics differently and more importantly than they did before.  Mostly, since the election, we’ve had a long, quiet spell & a busy summer (no posts here you may have noticed).

But last week, Finley announced, “When I grow up I want to work for the President. I want to work for Obama.” Ella pointed out,  of course, that this would not be possible, but that he could work for a different President, a career which he roundly embraced.  Ella, too, announced that she shares this ambition, and this weekend, they set up a White House in the back yard, and played President. This didn’t involve much of all except imagining that they inhabited that space.

And that imagination, for both my boy and my girl, can be the beginning. It’s the beginning of being involved, of believing that democracy matters, of understanding a wide range of public service.

But most of all, it’s the beginning of possibility.

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One Response

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to see someone in the spotlight that Looks Like Me, especially while watching Rachel Maddow report on Maine last night, and watching her every night for that matter. I used to feel as if the news didn’t include me, and even though the topics haven’t changed that much, seeing someone I can relate to speak about them engages me in the world in a way I’ve never felt before. To me, that’s another beginning of possibility.

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