Commentary: In One Lifetime, Plus One

By Streuli, Ted | THE JOURNAL RECORD, January 21, 2009 | Go to article overview

Commentary: In One Lifetime, Plus One


Streuli, Ted, THE JOURNAL RECORD


President Obama's inauguration Tuesday was - what? Milestone seems too small a word, historic too cliched. While it is not our custom to write about national events - we prefer to stick to Oklahoma - I'll ask your indulgence just this once.

On the day my father was born, William McKinley was president.

In a span of 76 years, my father witnessed the progression from horse-drawn wagons in the streets of San Francisco to Neil Armstrong's gravity-free step off a ladder on the moon. He went from wood-burning stove to microwaves, cross-continental railroads to trans-Atlantic flights and was around for both world wars, as well as Korea, Vietnam and a few other skirmishes. In his 30s, he watched the Golden Gate Bridge being built and went through the Great Depression.

No one would have questioned my father's patriotism. America was his country, and in many ways they grew up together. He believed in everything American: that you were limited only by your skill, intelligence and imagination. He believed that if you persevered, you would attain.

Slavery was only 35 years behind us when he was born, as fresh then as 1973 is to me. For most of his life, the country was segregated. He was 55 years old when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white passenger.

I was a mere toddler when Martin Luther King Jr. talked about his dream in Washington, D.C., quoting the nation's founders: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

I was 6 when he was murdered. I remember the day, or at least I remember what the day felt like.

Growing up I changed my mind about every three months regarding my future career. I wanted to be a pilot. A lawyer. A criminologist. A clergyman. A journalist. No matter what I said I wanted to be, someone pointed out how difficult it was and how crowded the field. …

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