Every once in a while there comes an article that sends goosebumps to your arms and tears to your eyes… this one, by Bob Ewegen (my dad) from The Denver Post, did that for me.
By Bob Ewegen
Article Last Updated: 01/25/2008 06:33:38 PM MST
Growing up on a farm in northeastern Colorado, I was constantly told, “Any American boy can grow up to be president.”
I dreamed of doing just that during those long hours on the back of a John Deere tractor. Today, at age 62, my odds of working in the Oval Office don’t look good. But that’s OK, because the dream served its purpose.
The things a child who wants to be president does — doing well in school, practicing public speaking, reading widely, participating in student government, going to college, etc. — also equip you to succeed in other fields. In my case, they led to the extraordinary privilege of talking with you and other Denver Post readers in what is now my 36th year with the West’s finest newspaper.
Years ago, I read an article by an African-American teacher that made the same points I just made about how the boy who dreams of being president also prepares himself for life. In sad contrast, the teacher said, many black boys dream only of being stars in the NBA. Their chances of living that dream aren’t much better than mine were of being president. But their fall-back position is far worse.
That’s because instead of doing the things I did to be president, some young blacks spend huge amounts of time playing basketball. Alas, if you don’t make the NBA, there really isn’t much of a market for dribbling skills.
That teacher also made me realize how lucky I was to have been a white boy. Because it wasn’t really true in my youth that any boy could grow up to be president — only white boys could. The White House was really a White Boy’s House. There are signs in front, printed in invisible ink that everyone can read, that say “No girls allowed” and “Blacks and Latinos please use the side entrance.”
Today, at long last, those signs are coming down. In a year when the Democrats are odds-on favorites to win the presidency, their race is down to a black man and a white woman, barring an upset by John Edwards in South Carolina today.
That means black boys, brown boys and all girls today can dream the same dreams I dreamed a half- century ago, with the same beneficial effects. It means my granddaughter Marlena can dream the same dreams my grandson Oliver can. And it means this amazing thing we call America is continuing to bring still more people into its glorious vision.
Against this backdrop, it seems almost churlish to ask: “OK, which specific barrier will fall this year?”
The media is besotted with that question. CNN had a show recently on “race vs. gender.” Polls say Barack Obama’s appeal is strongest with African-Americans. Hillary Clinton draws best with women and Latinos.
When the delegates meet in Denver in August, one of these special dreams will have to go on hold, while the other moves ahead. I can’t predict which dream will prevail. But history does say we’ve faced this choice before.
Feminist pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a strong abolitionist before the Civil War. After the slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment in 1865, Stanton and Susan B. Anthony split with ex-slave Frederick Douglass and other male allies by refusing to support the 14th and 15th amendments — because they granted the right to vote to male ex-slaves but not to any women. Douglass and other black leaders feared including women in the 14th Amendment’s vision of “equal protection of the laws” would prevent its passage.
The split had tragic consequences for both sides. Women had to wait for the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 to win voting rights.
Blacks in the South, in contrast, lost their rights — and often their lives — to the vicious “redeemer” regimes that restored white Supremacy after Reconstruction ended. For millions of black Americans, the rights supposedly granted in the 14th amendment were meaningless until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made them whole.
There is a lesson in this history: black child, girl child, your dreams are one. Unite behind what you have in common and reject efforts to divide you. Regardless of which of you first wins the symbolic office of the presidency this year, you have both already changed history.
Bob Ewegen (bewegen@denverpost.)
Thank you daddy, for one of the best perspectives I have seen since the campaign began.