“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
When Abraham Lincoln wrote this he was going through the worst of times for himself and for us it was the best of times because of the spirit of his delivery. Does he sound like a man with a broken spirit? I will answer that question for you. “No.” Abraham Lincoln presented the speech in the spirit of hope and faith. Many have accused him of vacillating, and he did, but he realized that the status of vacillation is not comfortable. We must keep the spirit of hope and faith when we find ourselves with a broken and contrite spirit. These are extraordinary times in which we are living, and when such a time as these comes, it is then time for ordinary people to get up and take extraordinary steps. One may ask, “Well what does one do? What can one do?” With those two questions I will refer you to the situation in Texas. Most of the people are devastated and have lost everything except their lives. They could have sat and bemoaned their state, but instead they gathered themselves together, organized their minds, began to galvanize their teams, and went to work assisting others. There are some dark days ahead for the victims of Harvey. No matter what it looks like, and you must remember this, behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining. Our nation must carry on no matter the circumstances. Why? Because we are the nation.
For many of us it feels like we are back in a civil war again. Many of us are horrified, disappointed, mystified, confused and some are simply mortified that we are back where we started from. Many are asking how did it happen. How did we allow this great nation to get here on the brink of World War III, divided by race, gender and economics? Why do we study history? Is it to learn from it or to repeat it? If we are simply going to repeat history and not learn from it, we should take it out of the school curriculum.
All across this nation there are moans and groans going forward indicating that we are a broken people with a broken spirit. The only thing that we can agree on is that we are broken. After we agree on that we return to our corners, fold our arms across our chest, and cross our legs. Research has proven that when groups are sitting around a negotiating table with arms folded and legs crossed, no changes or compromises can take place. It is a stance that we see so often. The attitude that comes with that stance is “I have made up my mind and I will not change.” So my suggestion is for us to unfold our arms and uncross our legs that we might begin to work on rekindling a healthy spirit for this nation. We have all said, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.” When we are repeating it, do we believe it? There are those who have decided that it is a lie and will not repeat it. I personally repeat it because it is a lie that I plan to help make come true.
Willie Mae Samuel is the founder and director of the African American Connection for the Performing Arts in Rome.