In his first State of the Union address, President Barack Obama evoked the country’s past to give hope for the future. From the market crash on Black Tuesday to the beaten Civil Rights marchers on Bloody Sunday, the president cited these difficult markers in American history as a reminder that the country moved beyond them and even grew from them. So too he believes will we get beyond the two wars we’re fighting, the health care reform we’re debating, massive unemployment and Wall street reform we’re contending with.
Whether tracing our individual family tree or leading an entire nation, we all look to our past, personal or collected, as a touchstone.
I don’t know if the unemployed recent college grad finds solace in the fact that their great grandparents may have lost all their savings in the 1929 crash or their farms in the dust bowl that descended on a good portion of middle America yet still survived. But I’m often buoyed by the belief that I’ll live to be 100 because of the people I come from.
My paternal grandmother died just shy of 99. My maternal grandmother who is almost 94, still walks around without assistance and even joins my mom at the gym during her visits. My mother, who would kill me if I revealed her age, is sometimes mistaken as my sister (much to my chagrin). And of course there is Tempy Burton, my great -great grandmother who lived to be 104, born a slave, emancipated in the middle of her life, bearing 7 of her former master’s children. It’s good genes I guess, but not really proof of anything since there are random factors like drunk drivers and defective parachutes to consider (although I don’t plan on jumping from a plane anytime soon). But it gives me a comfort to think my people were a durable bunch. They persevered and so can I.
What ancestral trait do you hope you’ve inherited?