I just celebrated another birthday and, as with many of you, I find it natural to reflect on the important events in my life. I feel fortunate to have lived my life so far filled with love, friendship and personal success. I also feel lucky to have had the opportunity to witness many incredible historic events. While some of them, such as the Kennedy Assassination, was tragic, and has left an indelible mark on my life, others were triumphant and were sources of inspiration. Some of the events that most impacted on me include the Civil Rights Movement, the awe-inspiring success of landing a man on the moon, the Viet Nam War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the cultural and values changes that came with the 60s, particularly theWomen’s Movement, and finally the election of the first black President of the United States in 2008. While the hallmark of America since the end of World War II had been progress, it seems that this dynamic has been reversed during the past several years. Areas marked by achievement seem either stalled or moving in the opposite direction.
I would like to focus on three of these areas in which I see dangerous reversals that impact on my life and the lives of those around me.. The Civil Rights Movement was marked by violence, commitment, heroism and cowardice. It pushed our society to a new awareness and new appreciation of what equality truly meant. One of the most important elements of that equality was the right to vote. We understood that this right would insure the security of all other rights. We remember the violence and death that occurred in efforts to secure voting rights. Yet today, we see efforts by GOP controlled legislatures in state after state attempting to curtail the voting rights of minorities, the elderly and the young. There is nothing subtle about these efforts to reduce the voting of those who tend to vote Democratic. The accusers of fraud are in fact, committing fraud. They are attempting to move things in reverse.
The inspiring effort to land a man on the moon, established as a national commitment by President Kennedy, placed science and technology front and center in our country. There was a respect for science and what it could achieve in improving the quality of our lives. The science we saw at work in medicine, food production and technology made America respected around the world. We were proud of our ability to achieve anything, and the future looked bright. Yet in recent years we have seen a trend, lead by politicians, ideologues and religious leaders who exploit ignorance for political gain and to negate the importance of science and the knowledge it can bring us. There have been relentless efforts that have impacted on funding and laws that prevent continued scientific investigation and experimentation . These politicians and religious leaders seek to reverse our respect and deny the good that science can bring to us.
For much of our history women played a clearly defined and restricted role in American society. They had to fight for the right to vote. They had to challenge the world of business, medicine, engineering, politics, etc. for their proper and well deserved place. Obviously, while some of the battle has been won, there is still much to do. What had changed was the way in which women were perceived. Most reasonable people began to perceive women as equal and capable of success and achievement in any area they chose. Yet we have begun to see a change in these attitudes in the past several years. The language that has accompanied the efforts in dozens of states to restrict access to women’s healthcare is a throwback to yesteryear. The conscious and purposeful refusal to deal with such issues as “equal pay for equal work and minimum wage increases brings into clearer view the reversal being seen in dealing with women’s issues.
As I look back to the many historical triumphs I have witnessed, I am proud to have been a part of them. It took decades filled with tireless commitment and bravery to achieve success in the areas I have discussed. Can we allow the efforts of a group of narrow-minded, frightened and selfish politicians, ideologues and religious leaders to reverse all of this? The midterm elections of 2014 will give us an opportunity to answer that question loud and clear. Be a part of that answer.