Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sarah Vowell on EMK’s Legacy

Sarah Vowell, the author of Assassination Vacation (a must read), is a favorite of mine so I was pleased to see that the NYT’s re-ran her Op-Ed after the DNC Convention and Senator Kennedy’s speech.

She uses the Pell Grants and his support for Education as the hook but she includes so much more.

ON Monday night at the Democratic National Convention, Caroline Kennedy introduced a tribute to her uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, by pointing out, “If your child is getting an early boost in life through Head Start or attending a better school or can go to college because a Pell Grant has made it more affordable, Teddy is your senator, too.”

To my surprise, I started to cry. Started to cry like I was watching the last 10 minutes of “Brokeback Mountain” instead of C-SPAN. This was whimpering brought on by simple, spontaneous gratitude.

I paid my way through Montana State University with student loans, a minimum-wage job making sandwiches at a joint called the Pickle Barrel, and — here come the waterworks — Pell Grants. Thanks to Pell Grants, I had to work only 30 hours a week up to my elbows in ham instead of 40.

Ten extra hours a week might sound negligible, but do you know what a determined, junior-Hillary type of hick with a full course load and onion-scented hands can do with the gift of 10 whole hours per week? Not flunk geology, that’s what. Take German every day at 8 a.m. — for fun! Wander into the office of the school paper on a whim and find a calling. I’m convinced that those 10 extra hours a week are the reason I graduated magna cum laude, which I think is Latin for “worst girlfriend in town.”

Twenty years after my first financial aid package came through, I have paid off my college and graduate school loans and I have paid back the federal government in income taxes what it doled out to me in Pell Grants so many, many, many, many times over it’s a wonder I’m not a Republican.

But I would like to point out that my perfectly ordinary education, received in public schools and a land grant university, is not merely the foundation on which I make a living. My education made my life. In a sometimes ugly world, my schooling opened a trap door to a bottomless pit of beauty — to Walt Whitman and Louis Armstrong and Frank Lloyd Wright, to the old movies and old masters that have been my constant companions in my unalienable pursuit of happiness.

I’m a New Yorker now. Every now and then when I have time to kill in Midtown, I duck into the Museum of Modern Art to stare at Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” I love looking at the picture, but I also love looking back on when and where and how I first saw it — on a slide in a first-year art history course in which some of my fellow students were ranchers’ sons who wore actual cowboy hats to class. It was a course I paid for, in part, with a Pell Grant, a program always and as ever championed by “my senator,” Ted Kennedy, a program so dear to Barack Obama’s heart that increasing the maximum amount of Pell Grants for needy students was the first bill he introduced upon arrival in the United States Senate.

I am a registered Democrat. That first night’s convention speech by Senator Kennedy about his life’s work reminded me what being a Democrat means. I have spent the last eight years so disgusted with the incompetent yahoos of the executive branch that I had forgotten that I believe in one of the core principles of the Democratic Party — that government can be a useful, meaningful and worthwhile force for good in this republic instead of just an embarrassing, torturing, Book of Revelation starter kit.

Read the whole piece. It is well worth it. And it is in keeping with all of the other tributes from observers of EMK’s life’s work and just as personal. He really did touch all of us whether he knew us or didn’t, he still cared.


Blogger George said...

It's time we recapture the essense and the bastions of "our" government...

But, there's still a critical mass of Americans who resist progress, are de-facto anti-government, and support really bad politicians. If all those scam artists, charlatans, stupidity peddler didn't have an audience, they would be irrelevant. Alas...

10:26 PM  

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