"We are a white family. Our two children were raised to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday as a serious, solemn birthday holiday. The Monday morning began, each year, just as their own birthdays always had, with a cake at breakfast time and with a present for each child. It was always a "serious", not frivolous, present -- a book, a carved wooden animal from Africa, a bracelet from a fair trade store in our city. We ate breakfast at our dining room table with our best china and silverware, and discussed for a sentence or two from each, what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s ideas meant to us.
Here was my purpose: to get my children to pay attention, for a lifetime, to matters of peace, non-violence,and racial equality. I reasoned that you get children's attention when you set aside a day -- Christmas, their birthdays -- to give them a gift. That is why we celebrated Dr. King's birthday in this way, all through their elementary and middle school years.
There was one Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday Holiday which was heartbreaking. President George Herbert Walker Bush chose THAT day to declare war on Iraq, the Gulf War. I was devastated -- a day to celebrate the life of our country's foremost practitioner of non-violence was now the the day to begin violence against another country. My children were 10 and 7. They didn't know about war. Our home was, safe, warm, and cozy.
As my protest -- and to comfort myself against this outrage -- I curled up with both girls on the living room couch and paged with them through the book "I Dream A World" , the book with beautiful pictures and stories of courageous African American women. I resolved to give a copy of this book to the elementary school on my street, and to go to classes in that school -- Kentucky School -- to show students the pictures and tell them the stories of these amazingly strong women. It was my way to protest George Bush's Gulf War and his desecration of Dr. King's birthday.
That was, I believe, 1991. Flash forward, now, to 2008. Same house. Same dining room, same living room, on the evening of November 3rd. It was dark. It was nearing time to go to bed. My husband and I had made all our preparations and contacts for the Houdini work he would do tomorrow, and the canvassing I would do tomorrow, November 4th.
I began to feel the intense sense of anticipation I have always felt on Christmas Eve: something very important is about to happen. That slow, deep sense of "something important" was with me as it became dark in my house and as I prepared for bed. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TOMORROW WILL BE IMPORTANT.
I want to attend this inauguration so that I can tell you and Michelle, in person, about that feeling, in my house, in my dining room, in my living room. The same dining room which hosted birthday parties for Dr. King, the same living room which held two girls and "I Dream a World". On the night before this election, I knew that something very important was about to happen, and it took my breath away."