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The State of the Union

Here is something I don’t think I have ever said: Tonight, for once, and perhaps briefly, I am proud to be an American. I hold two passports, one for the country in which I was born and where I lived for the first 2 or 3 months, and one for the great northland country where I’ve spent the rest of my life. In fact, I have never considered myself even minutely American, because I wasn’t born in America but in New York City, which is a separate country.

And yet tonight, it isn’t, it’s part of the country that voted in this terrific man. Yes, he was all over the map in his speech. But he spoke passionately of things that matter most, climate change, early childhood education, voting reform. And mostly, he spoke of citizenship. It was a great speech, especially, of course, the chant about the vote on gun control. But the part that made me tear up was the focus on individual citizens who have made brave, unselfish choices, and the camera focussing on their faces in the audience.

And now my brief moment of pride is over – the Republican is rebutting. I’d heard that this guy was a moderate and one of the better ones – but when he said the U.S. housing crisis was caused by government programs, I had to mute him. And not forget that almost half the country voted for his party of narrow-minded gun-loving bigots.

Well – it was nice while it lasted.

Yesterday, my student Odette delivered the final draft of her memoir for a last read and edit. It’s magnificent – 390 double-spaced pages in a maroon binder. Odette had never written when she came to my class a few years ago, but she wanted to tell the story of her life, not for publication, but for her five children. The story of her early life in a village in the Philippines, her parents and siblings, the political upheavals, her education and prestigious jobs, her marriage and eventual divorce. After taking my class several times, she continued to work with me privately; at one point, her boss wanted to reward her hard work and asked what she’d like, and she asked for my editing services to be covered for awhile.

It took her years of writing, getting up early before going to her job, and she had to take several breaks from the work. I told her that after following the decades of her marriage, the reader had to see its eventual end, and she told me she could not stop crying as she wrote. But write she did, and rewrite after many edits, and now here is the manuscript, for one last look before it goes to her family.

This is a hare and tortoise story. I’ve had many students with tons of confidence or time. But Odette got it done – a shy Filipina with a full-time job and a burning need to tell the truth. I am so proud of her.



2 Responses to “The State of the Union”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beth, thank you, thank you! You need to know that your guidance and encouragement kept me going. Oh, and your sharp eye: Unpack, unpack, unpack…

    – Odette

  2. beth says:

    My pleasure, Odette. You're an inspiration to us all.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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