Zoe Dunning, Alice Co-Chair
By Zoe Dunning
Alice Board, Co-Chair
I distinctly remember January 20, 1993, watching President William Jefferson Clinton’s first inauguration. I had never really paid attention to inaugurations before, but this one was significant to me. Three days prior, I had just “come out” publicly as a lesbian naval officer, at a political rally directed at then President-elect Clinton, demanding him to fulfill his campaign pledge to lift the ban on gay military service. I turned on the TV the morning of his inauguration to see what he would say. As it turned out, I don’t remember anything he said, but I vividly remember what Maya Angelou said.
Maya Angelou delivered one of the most famous inaugural readings ever, her poem On the Pulse of Morning . Written specifically for the inauguration, the poem’s themes are change, inclusion, responsibility, and role of both the President and the citizenry in establishing economic security. These messages ring true today as much as they did 21 years ago.
One excerpt took my breath away when it actually mentioned gays. Her point – that we are united by nature, but represent differing cultures:
The singing River, and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French , the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Sheik,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the Homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.
Our city of San Francisco and our Democratic party are great examples of this concept. We celebrate and embrace our diversity, but are united by more than nature. We are united by our love of this city and our democratic values of fairness, equality, and opportunity. We can celebrate our differences, and still come together with these shared values to address our problems and forge a path ahead. Our country has terrible scars from our past and mistakes made too often, but each day is a new day we must look forward, learn from those lessons and start anew:
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
It is these principles that serve as the foundation for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club’s values, as demonstrated in our endorsements. From Betty Yee for Controller to David Chiu for Assembly, we support candidates that not only recognize the continuing inequalities of our past and present, but also successfully create policy to move us forward. Their messages focus on hope and solutions, not fear. Again, Maya Angelou:
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
So I encourage you to wake up Tuesday morning and exercise your right to vote. Vote for the candidates that can lead us forward by bringing your Alice slate card with you. For as the poem ends:
Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
With hope —
RIP Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)