From 1983-91, I lived and worked in Hibbing MN. My office was on the Main Street, 402 E Howard St, the Teske Building, and I lived in an apartment about three blocks away on 1st Ave.
Those days I often went by the boyhood home of Bobby Zimmerman, and since I worked for school teachers I was often in the Hibbing High School, a short walk for me, the high school from which Bobby Zimmerman had graduated in 1959. In the 1980s, as I recall, Bobby, (later aka “Bob Dylan“), was not yet on the list of Hibbing legends. Out at the overlook for the giant Hull-Rust-Mahoning mine, the main famous guy for Hibbing pictured in the gift shop was Gino Paulucci (you can probably look him up).
Hibbingites, then, would have been surprised – shocked – to know that within the last week, their Bobby Zimmerman, Bob Dylan, would be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in the fall of 2016.
That is how Change seems to work….
Dylan wrote “Times they are a-changin” at the beginning of his career – 1964.
Those of us old enough to remember the 1960s and the 1970s know it wasn’t a sedate time for those who liked to remember the “good old days”. It was a time of Civil Rights and Human Rights; Vietnam and 18 year olds getting the right to vote (1971) and women getting maternity leave rather than having to quit their job when they were “showing”.
For kids, today, achievements like those are ancient history. A 50 year old African-American today would have been two when Martin Luther King was gunned down in Memphis in 1968.
Change had its costs.
We’re once again in the throes of change, but it’s different this time.
For near eight years now, an African-American man, Barack Obama, has been President of the United States, and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, has become one of the true exemplars of American ideals. Yes, it took 145 years from the Emancipation Proclamation for such an occasion to happen, but it has happened, and there’s no turning back.
And it wasn’t easy.
Recently I found a note sent to me by a valued friend, which was written the day after Barack Obama was elected in November, 2008. It is rather remarkably awful. Here it is: letter-11-04-2008002.
Four years later, a day or so after the re-election in November, 2012, an anguished relative forwarded a column in Forbes magazine, about how, after President Obama was reelected, the entire American economy would collapse. I kept that one too: Misery Loves Company. It, too, speaks for itself.
Now we seem at the doorstep of, thankfully, electing the first woman President in American History, Hillary Clinton. [My formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton can be found at my blog for Sep 24, 2016]
It needn’t surprise that it’s taken so long to get around to actually elect a woman; after all it took women 57 more years to get the right to vote, than for the slaves to be emancipated in the United States (1920 vs 1863).
It’s an unpleasant fact, I believe, that it was easier for Barack Obama to become President, than it has been for a woman: Obama is a man…. But he, too, had to break down a huge barrier. It’s the same, now for Hillary Clinton.
While women Heads of Government have not been uncommon around the world (a listing here), thus far it has not happened here in the United States.
Within the last few days I received the first terrified prediction of what will happen if Hillary Clinton becomes President of the United States. (I choose not to share this one – you can guess. The same guy sent a dozen forwards of Alt-right stuff overnight. He’s committed.)
But “the times, they are a-changin”, and while no one can accurately predict the challenges for America’s first woman President (and there will be challenges, as there have been for all the predecessors), this country will be the better for the experience, and we can learn a lesson we’ve been reluctant to accept: that women are very worthy leaders too.
The election isn’t over yet.
Vote, and vote very well informed, November 8, 2016.
POSTNOTE: At the end of the the October 18 post, I shared this quote by James Fallows of the Atlantic:
“Probably the memorable quote for me is this one I saw yesterday, in the Atlantic, from James Fallows, as follows: “The very hardest thing about being president is that almost all of the choices you get to make are no-win, impossible decisions. Let civilians keep getting slaughtered in Syria? Or commit U.S. forces without being sure who they are fighting for and how they might “win”? Propose a “compromise” measure—on health insurance, gun control, taxes, a Supreme Court nominee, whatever—in hopes that you’ll win over some of the opposition? Or assume from the start that the opposition will oppose, and begin by asking for more than you can get? Choices that are easier or more obvious get made by someone else before they are anywhere close to the president’s desk.
These decisions are hardest when life-and-death stakes are high and time is short. In 2003, invade Iraq, or wait? In 2011, authorize the raid on bin Laden, or not? In 1962, when to confront the Soviets over their missiles in Cuba, and when to look for the possibility of compromise.
The more I’ve learned about politics and the presidency, the more I’ve been sobered by the combination of temperamental stability and intellectual rigor these decisions demand. Stability, not to be panicked or rushed or provoked. Rigor, to understand what more you need to know, but also to recognize when you must make a choice even with less information than you would like.”
When Bob Dylan wrote “the Times they are a-changin'” in 1964, he was just a kid.
Oh, what an anthem it has become.
All of us have had to endure change, which is quite often scary.
Most often, the one who takes the risk to change finds that life is better on the other side.
I always will remember a piece of prose I saw at a time of huge change in my own life, in 1982.
Here it is: