Lifetime Member of the Dead Poets Society

One of my favorite movies of all time is Dead Poets Society. Released in 1989, when I was 19 years old and quite impressionable, the movie had a profound influence on me. The main theme of the story focused on the idea of educating young people to think for themselves by refraining from conforming to what the powerful people in life want everyone to conform to simply to get ahead, by exploring the world, and by going after the things that bring passion to the heart.

One of the things that has always brought passion to my heart is being a citizen of the United States of America – a free country. I have always felt blessed to have been born into this country. I have always known that being born into this country was truly a privilege that I had not earned. I had simply been born here. As I lifetime member of the Dead Poets Society, I feel the need to state this in words today: The privilege I have always lived with is that I am an American woman; not that I am a white woman, but that I am an American woman. There are countries where, as a woman, my voice would never be heard. In fact, there are places in this world where, as a woman, if I risked speaking out at all, I might be killed for it. But in America, where free speech for every citizen is still in place, my voice can be heard, along with the voices of many who don’t look, act, or think like me. That’s the great thing about this country. We all have a voice.

Today, as I anticipate my country’s main holiday – Independence Day – I wonder how much longer I will have a voice. Some of the things I have seen on the news and while scanning social media have brought much fear and unrest to my heart. You see, I have always loved the police, firemen and the military. (Actually, anyone who is willing to risk their own life to protect mine is aces in my book.) Sadly, in writing those words, I fear that I may be risking my reputation, my job, my future success. I fear that someone will read what I wrote and think that because I love police, that means I also support police brutality; or because I listed firemen, that means I don’t think women should be allowed in the profession of fighting fires; or because I love the military, I am a warmonger. In light of that fear, allow me to be clear: I do not support police brutality. I do think women should be allowed to fight fires. I hate war and wish it were something that never happened.

Today, I pray that we will all use our voice in a way that unites us – instead of divides us – with our fellow citizens. I pray that we can stop looking at each other as privileged or not, rich or poor, black or white, and start looking at each other as fellow citizens. Today, God, I pray that when I meet someone, my first thought is that I am meeting You in my fellow – and that the person I am meeting is able to meet You in me. And, God, I pray also that I will not allow fear to make me conform to that with which I do not agree, just so that I can be popular or successful. For I know I am blessed, God, for having been born into freedom; and for that freedom, I stand in respect for all those (black, white, yellow, brown, male, female, etc.) who have sacrificed their lives to ensure it is here to stay. I pray that their sacrifice will never have been in vain.


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