America is an amazing place. In the last 12 hours I've been equally inspired by the President of the United States and a waiter in Houston. Talk about equal opportunity. The president promoted lofty ideals without specific ways to achieve them and the waiter demonstrated how to make it happen.
Let's start with the President. We watched the inauguration this morning. The pomp and circumstance was beautiful and very moving. Maggie politely sat through the speech because her girls Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce were going to sing. She did seem to be listening to President Obama, though. Good thing, too, because it seemed to me that he was talking about Maggie and her peers. My favorite line was this:
We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.
Maggie definitely has the happiness part pegged. In fact, we should all strive to be as happy as she is. But her freedom is very limited by access issues, lack of tolerance, and so many other things. There are places we cannot go because Maggie is not welcome or will not fit or makes people uncomfortable or whatever. Some of that is my doing. I simply cannot do all the things necessary to care for her and face the crowd at the same time. I stopped wishing for miracles long ago. Maggie is just Maggie and that's ok. But I would love it if we could live in a world in which (if she cannot be healthy and able bodied) Maggie can be free to go wherever she wants without difficulty and without judgement.
The president did not mention how exactly we can accomplish that as a society. But another excerpt from his speech gives a clue. ...
we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice - not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires theconstant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
Apparently the waiter in Houston is already making it happen because his action preceded the President's speech by a day or so.
Michael Garcia, a waiter in Houston, refused to serve some people in his restaurant who moved tables to avoid sitting near a child with down syndrome and then followed with derogatory comments about the child. There was no doubt as to why they moved because they said, among other things: "special needs children need to be special someplace else." Even though they were regular customers, Mr. Garcia refused to serve them. He put his job on the line but he did the right thing, (see the whole story here or a million other sites http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/20637480/2013/01/21/waiter-refuses-to-serve-customer-who-insulted-down-syndrome-boy )
Michael Garcia, who did not lose his job, is making it happen. He took a stand for tolerance and opportunity, justice and dignity. We all need to follow suit.
Our country needs us.
Here are the excerpts from President Obama's speech that seemed to be aimed at me and Maggie.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.
And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice - not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.