Sunday, November 09, 2008

Guest Post: Jonathan Miller

Former State Treasurer and former state party chairman Jonathan Miller penned this op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader and I thought it was worth reposting here in full.
My children see visions my father could only dream of
By Jonathan Miller

"Your old men shall dream dreams. Your young men shall see visions."

That passage from the Book of Joel was my late father's favorite verse of Scripture. I've been thinking a whole lot about it during this election year: a year of magical dreams and unimaginable visions; a year with the constant, present, tangible sense that we were living history.

I've also been thinking a whole lot about my father.

It really struck me a few months ago, smack in the middle of a live radio interview I was giving to my friend Dave "Kruser" Krusenklaus. Every four years, I've called into his program from the site of the Democratic National Convention.

This was the final day from Denver, a few hours before Sen. Barack Obama would deliver his much-anticipated acceptance speech before a packed crowd of screaming partisans in the huge, open-air Invesco Field.

Kruser asked me whether I thought the unpredictable contingencies of an outdoor setting could distract from Obama's message. Unprepared for the question, I spouted off some of the greatest political speeches in history, all outdoors: Lincoln's at Gettysburg, Kennedy's inaugural, Reagan's "Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev."

Then I recalled my favorite speech of all. In fact, that very day happened to be the 45th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s majestic "I Have a Dream" oration.

My father had been there on the Mall, having spent the summer of his 25th year helping plan the logistics of the March on Washington.

And that's when it hit me. From his heavenly perch, through the open stadium, my father would be in Denver watching with us as well. Along with the many hundreds of patriotic Americans who had given their lives in the civil rights struggles of the 20th century. And along with the many thousands of African-Americans who had died in uniform, proudly serving their country, even though their own dreams of full equality had not yet been realized.

As I stood among 75,000 that clear, crisp, perfect August evening, I could feel the presence of so many more, so many proud American dreamers.

It really struck me again on Election Night.

This time, there were only a few hundred of us in downtown Lexington. But what was remarkable about the crowd was not its size, but its age. Interspersed among the dozens of Democratic diehards were the faces of young Kentucky: from 20-something professionals to college students to my own daughters, who are 14 and 12.

This was their election. They had debated the issues, worn campaign paraphernalia with pride, knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors and voted in record numbers. More significantly, they had provided the energy and intensity — and most important, the idealism — that had been missing from our political system.

Many had feared that American idealism had taken its final breaths in 1968 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel and in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel.

But precisely 40 years later — after 40 years of partisanship and polarization and politics of self-interest — our democracy has been resuscitated by our youngest generation of Americans.

Will this be the next Greatest Generation? Will they be like the Biblical Joshua Generation, leading us after 40 years of wandering into a promised land, where politics are civil, where culture is color-blind, where policies are compassionate?

It's up to us to empower them with the education and civic values to enable them to restore America's greatness, to make us again a light unto the nations.

And, of course, it's up to them to translate their passion for the planet and all of its inhabitants into a more compassionate community.

As I kissed my daughters good night Tuesday, I told them that their grandfather would be awfully proud of them.

Your old men shall dream dreams. Your young men — and women — shall see visions.

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