I was watching the evening news Wednesday and managed to catch the moment when Sen. Barack Obama was officially nominated. I could feel tears well in my eyes as Sen. Hillary Clinton called for his nomination by acclimation. And those tears started flowing as the CBS News reporter interviewed an African American lady who is a delegate from South Carolina. She talked about how her father had experienced segregation during his life, but now he suffers from Alzheimer's disease. The lady said she wished her father could understand the historical moment when Sen. Obama was nominated; unfortunately, Alzheimer's made that understanding impossible.
I totally understand what the lady from South Carolina was talking about. I wish my mom was here (without Alzheimer's, of course) to experience this moment. You see, Mom's family tree has deep roots in the Confederacy and many relatives were major slaver owners. Yet, my mom and her mother were the key people in the family who broke that chain of prejudice.
Mom never thought that race, religion or class should be used to separate people. And in her life, Mom put her words into action. Raised as a Christian, Mom married a Jew and later adopted a son who is of Hispanic lineage. And I have vivid memories of when we moved to West Texas in the early 1970s when I was going into sixth grade. Mom went to register me at the new school and asked that I be put into the best teacher's class. The lady who was handling the paperwork said, "You know, the best teacher in that grade is an African American man. Do you have a problem with that?" Mom's instant response was, "No. I want my daughter to have the best teacher! Put Dorian in his classroom." That teacher proved to be one of the best educators that I ever had. Several years later, Mom requested that my brother be placed in this teacher's classroom as well.
Yes, Mom would be so happy to see Sen. Obama nominated (although she would add that she was an independent voter). And if she had a chance to talk to him, she would first congratulate him about his historical nomination and then ask him to include funding for research and key programs in the battle against Alzheimer's and other types of dementia in his party's health care platform. (She would have a similar message on the health care platform for Sen. McCain).
I believe Mom would want the Alzheimer's fight to be used as a way to unite people who often have been divided by race, religion and class. Mom would want the United States - whether we have Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain as president -- to join in this crucial fight. I believe that Democratic supporters (such as the lady from South Carolina) and Republican supporters (such as Nancy Reagan) who have loved ones who have been touched by Alzheimer's would agree.
Published On: August 28, 2008