At 10am MST on January 20, 2017 I was seated face-to-face with 15 community members that belonged to a rural community in New Mexico that’s barely visible on a map. 2016 was a particularly challenging year for this town of 1,100 people. A few weeks prior, four historic buildings were lost to a tragic fire, destroying beloved businesses and homes on their main street. Additionally, they were officially declared a “food desert” earlier in the year when their only grocery store closed, resulting in residents having to drive over 50 miles for groceries each week.
At 10am MST on January 20, 2017, a transition of power was taking place on our National Mall. It was at this location and date four years ago that I proudly stood amongst the crowd to honor our first black President as he took an oath for his historic second term.
January 20, 2013 and January 20, 2017 have both managed to leave me with an overwhelming feeling of hope. This morning, I got to shake hands with people who truly embody the meaning of “love thy neighbor.” People who are so connected to their sense of place, that today, they took their first step together in laying the groundwork for town-wide prosperity, revitalization, optimism, and healing.
Four years ago, feelings of hope rippled through the crowd and the country as President Obama delivered a speech that declared the continuation of a progressive and inclusive agenda. I will always treasure the memory of being able to cast my first legal vote for a self-proclaimed feminist whose leadership seldom lacked class, conviction, and equity.
Although we as a nation said farewell to our 44th President today, I got to say hello to 15 of the most inspiring local leaders. While they will likely never get a national stage or a teleprompter to read from, it’s people like them and communities like theirs that need to be given our attention going forward. These are the folks that will be leading the grassroots efforts to make America a place for everyone to live healthy, happy, and hopeful.
To quote the man himself, “Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead of the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” – Barack Obama.
May you find peace and hope in these uncertain times.