Standing on the shoulders of giants

I was reminded of this phrase while at dinner this week. I recently became a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar at MIT. As part of this honor, I was invited to attend the Faculty of Color monthly dinner. I must admit I became more nervous as the day of dinner approached. Most of these Professors I interacted with while a student representative on a Faculty Committee in my role as a graduate student representative. Some I had only read about while studying the history of the Minority Community at MIT. All of them are leaders in their respective fields of research and contributors to the advancement of Minorities in Academics.

As I sat there listening to their stories at dinner, I reflected on how much they each gave in their own way to open doors for my generation. Reading their history paled in comparison to hearing the narrative in person. It is hard to gauge the thought process from the written word. To glimpse into environment from which decisions were made. Whether thirty years out, it was all worth it. Being there at the dinner, listening to the changes in inflection, taking in the hand gestures, and observing the shifting body language lent a sense of reality and depth to the narration that is absent in the written word.

I cannot imagine the strength and resolve it took to put up with spitting, cigarettes butts, sleeping in isolated conditions, or being ostracized from the academic community because of what you were not. All I know is that I am thankful to them for the road they paved for me.

Later that evening, while on the Red Line going home, I realized that at one time, they were just like me. A potential to be used. The choice on how that potential was to be used was mine and only mine to make. Only time would tell, but if I choose to do what I believe and do not compromise, it will all work out. Just then a song came into my head; REM’s ‘King of Birds’ lyrics, standing on the shoulders of giants, it leaves me cold. As I hummed the tune, I smiled knowing that although it is going to be a hard endeavor, it will not be impossible. They made sure that I have more than a fighting chance.

The beginning of a New Day

Barack Obama PictureI have been watching the procession of Presidential Elect Barack Obama’s train snaking its way from Philadelphia to Washington.  They have just been introduced in Baltimore and are walking onto stage.  As I watch and listen to the speech, to the references to the history of this Country, the sacrifices which were made to get to this point, I am filled with renewed fervor and hope for the future.  These last eight years have been a hard and dark period in our history.  The attack on the Ideals and the Visions on what our Country has been founded on, both from without and from within, has brought me to the brink of despair.

My hope for this Country is rekindled.  I have been paying close attention to what has been said this week about the return of respect for facts and science, of the making descisions based on reality and not for those who can benefit us financially, of holding our leaders accountable for their actions.  I am not naive; I know of the shortcomings of men and of the pitfalls of power.  I have hope though, that maybe, just maybe, America, as a country, can again inch forward in its pursuit of providing those unalienable rights and liberties for all the members of our Country.