“And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect, we are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.”
-Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”
Listening to Amanda Gorman, I feel hopeful.
In the last months, I’ve talked with old students about trying to decide what jobs we’ll move towards when so many of the systems that coordinate human work are broken. I love teaching, but our education system is so exclusionary, so slow in adjusting, so committed to fracturing thought into smaller and smaller pieces. I love storytelling, but can’t stomach how often “fiction” ends up meaning a few voices are heard and most are drowned out. And every time I get in the car I’m burning oil. My old students say they’re in a similar place: wanting to help, not sure how. And then Amanda Gorman offers us an idea.
We are not striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge a union with purpose.
Purpose and commitment. Those are things I can do. Where “perfect” is a judgment on the results, purpose and commitment are working while clarifying in my heart what I’m working toward. Put it this way: I hate grading, and I’m pretty convinced stamping numbers on people causes more hurt than it helps. All the same, for now, grading is part of what I do while I’m doing the best I’ve found. Sometime I might get to leave it behind. For now, I’ll drive less, and learn from people who are pushing energy reform because of all that oil. For now, every semester, I see people growing into their strength and using it more kindly. That’s the purpose. That, says Amanda Gorman, is the kind of thing we can hold onto while composing another moment, another way things are, another now.