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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

A few weeks before the Democratic National Convention and the official nomination of Barack Obama, I began work on a Mandarin Jacket by designer Nadine Shapiro, owner of Woolplay in Haddonfield, NJ. I had fallen in love with the jacket when I first saw it on Ravelry and was delighted to see that its designer was the owner of my very own local yarn shop. Comprised of hundreds of mitered squares out of approximately a dozen variegated colorways of Koigu yarn, the jacket presented new challenges and I was anxious to both construct and deconstruct the pattern.

I worked on that sweater throughout the Democratic National Convention.  It was my constant companion as summer days waned and I prepared for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I continued to work on it as we marched with great hope and anticipation toward the presidential election. My mandarin jacket captured the harmonies of choir rehearsal as we prepared for this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. service.

As Inauguration Day approached, it became clear to me that I had to do whatever was necessary to complete my jacket in time for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Somewhere between the Democratic National Convention and the election of Barack Obama, I had subconsciously begun to link my mandarin sweater with this wonderful “Yes we can” change that was sweeping the nation.  It had suddenly become very important to me to finish that sweater in time for the inauguration. I stayed up extremely late on Monday, January 19th so that I would be able to wear it for the inauguration of President Obama.

While I was finishing it, I still couldn’t quite verbalize why it was so important to me that my mandarin jacket become my inaugural sweater, but after I saw it completed, it all became clear. As I gazed at all of the colors, I saw the sweater as something that represented the melting pot of our country. We come from all different countries, ethnicities, races, religions, and walks of life. Separated, each variegated skein of yarn is beautiful in its own right. But when knit together, all of those variegated colors and those many, many stitches become a stronger and more beautiful fabric. I guess in some strange way, because I worked on this sweater throughout the Democratic Convention and the remainder of Obama’s campaign and ultimate election, his words about coming from different places but being “one” somehow became knitted into my sweater.

Suddenly, as I gazed at my completed sweater, it was crystal clear why I had to complete it in time for the inauguration. It represented the knitting together again of our fragmented nation—the unifying of the many races, religions, and ethnicities that make up the fabric of who we are as Americans.

Of course, Barack Obama said it much more eloquently in his inaugural address.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.  –President Barack Obama, January 20, 2009

And indeed, my mandarin jacket will forevermore remind me of the patchwork heritage that President Obama so magnificently described.

Mandarin Jacket

Mandarin Jacket

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My parents taught me right from wrong at a very young age. It is, in my opinion, something that all good parents should do. Thanks to my parents, I learned to respect and learn from the differences among people instead of fearing them. My circle of friends always reflected these early teachings and as I got older, I was proud to be known as someone who stood up for other people, even when it was the unpopular thing to do. It meant that I did not always get to stand with the popular crowd, but that was OK with me. Even then, I understood that that kind of popularity was fleeting and standing up for what was right was more important.

 

My parents passed on a few other things during those formative years, which I have also carried with me into adulthood. Two of my favorite pastimes—singing and knitting—date back to those early days, as well. And each ties to one of my parents. My love of music comes from both of my parents, but my love of singing comes specifically from my Dad. As for knitting—well Mom is responsible for that one. Mom and her aunt, my Great Aunt Anna, taught me to knit one summer afternoon when I was six-years-old. I guess even then I sensed that the rhythmic beat of the needles was like music.

 

I wrote the essay that follows a year ago, but it seems especially appropriate this year as we look forward to the realization of Dr. King’s dream—the inauguration of our first African American President of the United States.

 

*    *    *

 

I sing, therefore I am. Or so it has always seemed. My Aunt Marlene—my mother’s sister—was the first to announce that I would be a singer. I was still a baby. It was 1964, the year that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Our family had made its annual Thanksgiving trek from north Jersey to Arlington, Virginia to spend the holiday with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. As the story goes, though I was only four months old, Aunt Marlene listened to my melodic cooing in the playpen and announced that I was going to be a singer.

 

And she was right. I have always loved to sing—school chorus, school musicals, summer camp, around a campfire, accompanying my father on the guitar. For me, singing has always been joyful, and I have always sought out any and all opportunities to sing.

 

 

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