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  • Betty Girardeau

Making Tracks


John Lewis died two weeks ago today. Much of the news since has been about his life and honoring it and its legacy. I knew who he was in a general way and I remember seeing him in action on various Congressional committees often asking deep and penetrating questions. His name was undoubtedly often in the news in the early 60's when I was in college and later as a newlywed starting my own family and life in the adult world. I was certainly very aware of the Civil Rights Movement, but, to be honest, my own personal life overshadowed everything but the basics. I am glad that I have been able to learn more about this remarkable man. Few of us lead lives that make such deep impressions on the world. I am currently reading David McCullough's book "1776," which describes the ups and downs of the first year of our nation's birth. Of course, leaders like George Washington and John Adams have leading roles, but a lot of the narrative includes everyday people like you and me, men and women from every walk of life who, did their small part to create a new nation that represented radical new political and social ideals. The success of the leaders was only possible because of the parts the "little people" were also willing to take. The world of 1776 was as politically unsettled and divided as our 2020 world seems to be. But America of that year seemed to have gifted leaders who, while not always in agreement, were willing to work together, something we seem to be lacking now. In the end, however, it was Americans in the ranks whose actions turned the noble ideas of the Declaration of Independence into something more than words on paper. We can't all be George Washingtons or John Lewis's, but we are the ones who can further their leadership. Both men honored the words of the Declaration of Independence to the degree that they wanted them to become actual. They haven't totally yet. But we and our children and children's children have their tracks that we can follow, making our own along the way, so that someday America can be a bit closer to those ideals. It's hard to figure out how we can single handedly even begin to follow in their footsteps and, for that reason, maybe we don't try very hard. But one thing that I know we can do and that I learned was basic to the character of John Lewis, be a good listener. And equally important, as he said, he "hold(s) no grudges...Hate is a burden." Make your tracks count as these men did.

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