“Obama for your Mama!”
That is all I could think of during my tour of the White House on Friday. I felt like George and Wheezy, I was “Movin’ on up, to the East Side, finally got a piece of the pie.” The feeling I had waiting with international people and domestic folk alike was this feeling of awe to be in the space that helps govern our nation. The East Wing of the White House is a collection of the history of the United States. The good, the bad and the unfortunately ugly.
The White House is a beacon of Hope. As I sashayed through three security clearances, I realized that many people want to thwart the hope that our president and the White House represent. That hope for me began as a child. I loved watching “School House Rocks” and learning about the social, historical and political issues of America. In fact, my good friend Gary, a graduating senior, gives his time every week to the Columbus Literacy Council.
The program Gary works with helps aliens become full citizens. They get trained in the history of the United States and a sundry of other hard and soft skills to pass the citizenship test. I reminded Gary about the “School House Rocks” series, and he has used it in the class with other mixed methods to help feed the hope of these folks in their pursuit to be as American as “a bill on top of Capitol Hill.”
The pan-hope with which Gary feeds his eager students of all ages is the same hope I and others feel about the White House. That is why so many movies, such as “Independence Day,” and extremist groups make the icon of hope their target. From the movie industry to terrorist organizers, people know that the White House is a representation of hope not just to the citizens of the United States, but to people all over the world.
While waiting, I observed people from several countries. For them to be a part of this experience, they had to plan for months and go through more security than I could imagine just to step foot in the White House. They wanted to do it and were exceedingly patient, because hope transcends language and politics.
As I made my way through the Green, Blue, Red and other adorned rooms, I looked at the faces of Washington, Lincoln and Franklin and, regardless of the complexities of these men and how they personally felt about women and black people, I knew that this land was also my land.
What a privilege to be present at the White House. I have become even more grateful and thankful because the White House has also become “the hope and dream of the slave.” The place where bills and laws once got the final signature to bar groups from being full citizens is also the place that finalized the amendment for women to vote in 1920 and the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.
I am a first-generation college student and the first person in my family to be granted access to visit the White House. The icon of hope for a kid who would watch cartoons about America has been renewed: I now have shed the pessimism and have become more optimistic about the future. If people from all over the world can come to the White House and be transformed, maybe this icon of hope that contains the consciousness of democracy can accomplish what people think it can.
Hope transforms how we see the world. Hope shifts our ontological maps of how we make meaning in our lives. The kind of hope that births from Pennsylvania Avenue can only move our nation forward if we join with the work Gary does and with the hope of the people taking his class. Hope that is adopted by the eighth graders who were taking group pictures outside the gated White House. Hope only moves when we believe, work together and put plans into action.