Progressive Revival

My grandmother’s grandmother touched Abraham Lincoln’s
coat.  One day, when she was a
little girl, her father rushed into the house and said, “Come on, we are going
to the train station right now.” 
Once outside, they joined a large crowd rushing toward Baltimore’s train

As they entered, the train pulled in and out stepped
President-elect Abraham Lincoln. 
My ancestors pressed toward the front getting close enough to Lincoln
that my small great-great grandmother reached out and tugged on his coat.  He looked down and smiled.   She never forgot.  And she shared this story with her
children and grandchildren who, in turn, shared it with theirs.

I come from a poor, working class family.  They had no access to power, were never
invited to the White House.  They
never owned their own home, could barely read and write, and possessed few
earthly goods.  This story–the
story of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration journey–is the only inheritance I have
from my 19th century ancestors.  And all I really know about them is that Lincoln’s election
gave them hope, enough hope that they pushed through the crowds in Baltimore in
order to reach out and touch him. 

On Saturday, as Barack Obama and Joe Biden retraced
Lincoln’s train journey, I thought of my ancestors and the difficult times in
which they lived and their quiet, unheralded participation in history.

As we watch Barack Obama’s inauguration, we are not only
witnesses to history, but we are, in fact, making history.   Each of us–wherever we are and
whatever we do–are creating an inheritance of memory for those who are yet to
be born.  Enjoy.  Celebrate.  Do something. 
Tell your story.  And think
of all those who will one day want to hear that you tugged on the coat of
American history. 



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