Two frogs fell into a pail of milk…
Even when it’s hopeless, you might still get butter in First Class!
My flight leaving New York was late taking off, shrinking my three-hour layover in Abu Dhabi to less than 25 minutes. A gate attendant said passengers travelling to Bangalore would have try to rebook on the next flight—the following day.
People might call me a lot of things but “fit” has never been one of them. Still… I had two old friends, a fantastic trip planned, and a serious amount of really great food waiting for me in Bangalore. I started to run, even as the PA system announced “Final boarding call for Bangalore. All passengers should now be on board.”
As I was running, an employee of Etihad asked me where I was going. When she heard, she had me come to the desk while she checked on the flight. My seat was already reassigned, she said, but she printed out a new boarding pass. “And I have a car for you.” She opened an unmarked door behind her to reveal a limo with a uniformed driver. He took my backpack, handed me into the car, and we headed toward the runway.
As we drove, the driver asked me how I liked Abu Dhabi, and pointed out a spectacular new airport under construction. “You should come back in a year and try it.” We pulled up to the jet, where a set of stairs was wheeled up. The driver opened my door and handed out my backpack as if it was a Louis Vuitton original. At the top of the stairs, a flight attendant took my bag and showed me to my seat—at the front of First Class. Another brought me a glass of wine and a bowl of mixed nuts, and asked if I’d like to put in my dinner order.
Behind me I could hear the plane buzzing with speculation about the identity of the passenger with the limo, chauffeur, and first class seat.
If only I had remembered my sunglasses.
Why am I telling you this story? Well, I realized I could have focussed on my suitcase (which didn’t show up until I was well into the month’s journey). I could have been one of the (many) people who accepted that they would lose a day and lined up to rebook for the next day’s flight.
But here’s the thing…
I was really depressed as we began the first of four years with Donald Trump as POTUS, and felt helpless against an agenda that I found frankly terrifying. Then I saw the letter from outgoing President Barak Obama. He called on me and all of us to keep paddling.
I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.
All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.
And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’
Yes, we can.
President Barack Obama
In keeping with tradition, outgoing President Obama followed up this letter with a handwritten letter to his successor, Donald Trump. One of the things he wrote has stayed with me.
…we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions — like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties — that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them. —letter from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, 20 January, 2017
Donald Trump, 45th heir to those guardians of democratic institutions, might want to reread his letter before proceeding with dismantling institutions like the US Postal Service and disenfranchising Americans attempting to vote by mail during the pandemic.
They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Mr. Trump said Thursday morning in an interview on Fox Business, referring to Democratic demands. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.
So what’s the message in all this?
If we give up, we might drown just before we find a way out. If we don’t try a hopeless run, our near future will not be good. But, if we accept President Obama’s challenge, we just might end up with butter. In First Class.
Yes we can.