Turtle's Progress

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Open Letter to My Grandchildren, On the Inauguration of Barack Obama

Dear Brody, Sarah, Charlotte, and Ephraim,

As I sit here watching the pomp and circumstance of the Inauguration of another American president, it has occurred to me that this president is the first to be elected during your lifetimes. Brody, you were born just three weeks after the presidential election of 2004, and Ephraim, your birth was nearly a year before Barack Obama was elected.

I hope by the time you are each able to read and understand these thoughts and observations that you will not think that this election was anything special. I hope that you will have seen Americans of all colors and ethnicities serving as leaders not only in government but in all walks of life. But today that is not the case. Today is special. Today brings tears to my eyes. Today Barack Obama becomes president of the United States of America. Today your Grama celebrates the country into which you were born.

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of another great American, Martin Luther King, Jr. He died 40 years ago but in one of his last and most famous speeches he once said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Today feels like the beginning of the fulfillment of that dream, and I pray that this is the case.

I think that your parents, and parents everywhere, have that same dream for their children that Martin Luther King, Jr. had for his children. You are each named for people of character whom your parents love and admire; people who can serve as outstanding role models in your lives. I'd like to tell you what I know about them in the hopes that you will someday read this and understand a little about the character of the people whose names you share.

Brody, your middle name, Thomas, is for your granddad who is your mom’s father and my husband. He was a police officer who was respected by his fellow officers and his community. He received many awards during his career, but the one he told me he was most proud of was from a group called COUL (Community of Unified Leadership). This group was formed in 1971 to help the city of Anniston deal with racial problems. Your grandfather was the first (and maybe the only) police officer to receive this honor. This tells me that in his duties as a police officer he was recognized as someone who treated people with respect no matter the color of their skin. He also loves his family very much. He was a good son, an Eagle Scout, and he always studied hard in school. He has taught Sunday School, and always regularly attends church. He is a wonderful father to your mama and your Uncle Craig. He works hard, and he loves you with all his heart. Thomas is a name you should be very proud to share with him.

Sarah Lorraine, you have two names from two very special ladies. When your mom was only 16 years old she met a lady named Sarah Finch who was 87. They became great friends. She had a wonderful sense of humor and cared deeply about anyone who came into her life. She worked very hard her whole life and took care of her mama and her daddy and her husband when they were very sick. She loved your mama very very much, and your mom loved Sarah Finch so much that she always told her when she had a little girl she was going to name her Sarah. Lorraine is the name of my grama, your mom’s great-grandmother. She was the best grama a child could have and loved all of her grandchildren, but she cared about other people too. When I was a child she lived by the railroad tracks, and I can remember how “hobos” who would be passing through our town on the train would come to her back door and she would give them something to eat. They seemed to know that a kind lady lived in that house. Sarah Lorraine is your name now, Sarah, but it comes from two very loving and strong women. When your mama and daddy gave you that name I think they had hopes that you too will grow up to be as strong and loving as they were.

Charlotte, your middle name, Ann, is also your Grama Karen’s middle name. I have only known your Grama for a few years but I know her to be a wonderful person. She lovingly raised seven children, including your daddy, to be strong and caring adults. She also taught school for many years and helped other people's children, many of them black, Latino and Asian, learn not only their academic lessons but also about how to grow up to be good people. She and your Grampa Tom have counseled young married couples. She works hard in her church, volunteers in her community and is a loving grandmother to you and your cousins. I hope that you, Charlotte, grow up to share not only your Grama Karen's middle name but also her beautiful and loving spirit.

Ephraim, your middle name is McCray. It is the maiden name of your daddy's grandmother; your JoJo's mother. The only things I know about her is that your daddy loved her very much, and that she raised your JoJo. That alone tells me what a great woman she must have been because your JoJo is very special. She raised your daddy and your Uncle Tory to be outstanding men and fathers. She taught school for nearly 30 years, served in her church as an elder, a choir member, a worship leader, and a Sunday School teacher. She delivers meals-on-wheels, visits shut-ins, takes care of your Papa and loves you, Sarah and Lily with all her heart. I know your middle name McCray is special because it belonged to the woman who raised your JoJo to be someone who cares deeply about others no matter what their color or background. You will do well, Ephraim, if you remember where your middle name came from and that you share that family name and background with your very special JoJo.

So today as I watch the Inaguration of our first African American president, I think back on the history of this country and how far we have come, but I also look forward. I think of the four of you growing up in a country more inclusive than the one I came up in, and what that will mean for you. I think of your names and hope that you will each know and remember where your names came from. I think of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream and I hope that you will each grow to be caring adults who will be judged by others only by the content of your character.

But my most fervent prayer for you is that each of you will grow to be a member of that nation that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of. That nation that will judge others not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I pray that you will have friends of all races, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. And that you will not see or focus on the differences between you but on the things you all have in common. I pray that you will not see color but will always look for character in all who come into your lives.

Someday when you are older and I talk to you about what today means to me and maybe watch videos of it with you, and you see your old Grama getting sentimental and choked up, I hope you will try to understand, and that you will know the important history of what happened today. But I also hope that you will look at me and wonder "What is the big deal?" Someday, I pray it is no longer a big deal, but today it is. Today I celebrate the Inaguaration of the first president elected during your lifetimes, and the first African American president elected during my lifetime.

Love, Grama


At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

AMEN!! What a wonderful letter. I know that these children will indeed see the world in a different way - because racism is a learned behavior, not born. Young children do not see other children in terms of color, it is something that is pointed out to them later by ignorant adults. I'm sure that their parents will be mindful to make sure the kids see the world as diverse and beautiful, because that's what their parents taught them. And they will always have their very special grama to show them the way.

At 12:33 PM, Blogger erin said...

Love this mom. Thank you for doing this for our kids. As soon as our printer is filled with paper I'll be printing it out for their folders. I love you!

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Megan said...

Very nice. I hope you are right about the future and that kids look back on this and wonder why it was such a big deal too. I love the way you love your family!

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Peyton's Pages said...


At 4:58 PM, Blogger apnea mom said...

Hi Terry,
I am a friend of Erin and Brent's from church. We met during one of your visits.

What a beautiful letter to your grandbabies! I knew that Sarah and Ephriam had special parents but it sounds like these special children have a long legacy of people of character in their lives. Lucky children!

I look forward to following your blog! Please keep writing!

At 7:34 PM, Blogger J.J. Killins said...


I looked at my own kids in a different light today. Having always thought they would be able to do whatever they dream, my faith in that belief was renewed today!

What a beautiful letter for your grandkids...


At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, what a wonderful way to express the feelings of today! SO, so true! I hope my boys look back at this day and also say "what was the big deal?"
Oh yea, I used to teach with Erin in Ohio...love and admire your daughter SO much! You did a fabulous job :-)

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Lucky Fresh said...

Terry, so glad you wrote this (and let us know about it on fb)! The names are a beautiful way of connecting it all. I sent my mom the clip of Pete Seeger singing "This Land is Your Land" on Sunday, and we both cried and cried. She said, "He's up there for Lee Hays and Odetta and especially for Studs Terkel." It makes me think of that "Roll Call" song by Mavis Staples. You know they were all hovering today. Names are important.
I wish you could have been in the City Meeting Center with me this morning at the SCLC program to watch. It was a cool place to be for this. Miss you!


And visit my blog...

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Joyce said...

Well, I could have not said it better than you have. It was, too an emotional day for me. I am so proud to be an American! I thank you for all you have said for your grandchildren and for those that have seen your blog.
God Bless our America!
Love you, Terry!!!!

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Janelle Anderson said...

What a wonderful post and your words are so true! What a day for sure and what an inspiring man, Barack Obama is.
Thanks for sharing such an endearing letter with us all!

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Amy said...

What a beautiful sentiment and letter to your wonderful grandchildren! Definitely a day to make us all proud Americans.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Dave said...

thank you Terry, I believe that we are intering a new world with unlimited possibilitys! ~Dave

At 5:25 PM, Blogger lori said...

I really, really wish I had the gift of writing like you. You know just what to say and how to say it. I guess you got all the brains and I got the boobs. LOL
I love reading your blog it always makes me cry with the exception of Cloth Diapering circa 1978...sorry no tears for that one;-)
Love Ya Sissy!

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Meghan said...

I just realized I havent commented on your beautiful piece, Mom. I am so proud to have this to show Charlotte and my grandchildren and to have them realize what a monumental time this is for our country. Thankyou so much for all the thougth you put into it! i love you!

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Karen Ann said...

Terry, your words resonate with the peace and love that we hope for at this time. We both have experiences of a previous time when this inauguration was an IMpossibility; I also remember the fact that President Obama being interracial would have been even MORE of a blight on his "character!" I spent hours & hours watching and re-watching all of the inauguration. It was amazing.
I have heard "to understand diversity, you have to live with diversity." Living in CA, we have much diversity, and it is not always easy - to understand, accept, flow with, whatever, but it is a CHOICE. 3 A-words I like are appreciation, affection,& acceptance -for everyone. They help me be a better person to all.
I completely concur with your beautifully written piece. Thank you! for this gift to all of us but especially to your grandchildren, Terry. You are truly loving, kind, compassionate, and committed to making a difference!
Love, Karen

At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Grandma Kc said...

This is truly beautiful and a letter they and their parents will certainly always cherish. Hopefully by the time our grandchildren are adults everyone really will be color blind. We have come so far and yet have so far together. I thought Peace -- of so many forms -- would be here by now. Stopped by from the GRAND Social. Glad I did.

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Lisa @ Grandmas Briefs said...

What a wonderful letter for your grandchildren and for your readers. So many lines I hovered over, ready to copy and paste here in the comment to say, "Loved this." But I would have copied and pasted nearly every single sentence. Your heartfelt words and sentiments are a true treasure. Thank you for sharing this in the GRAND Social.


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