lessons from America

More to be thankful for

I enjoy bringing in little slices of Americana into my blog.  And on Thanksgiving eve it seems apt to bring in a turkey-flavoured one.  As I write this in my study, to one side of me hangs a print of an iconic image: Norman Rockwell’s ‘Freedom from Want’.  A huge turkey is being brought to a table of happy, smiley people.  Read more about the significance of the picture here.  The picture was done as a wartime reminder of what people were fighting for.  To motivate the home front effort still further.  

Times have changed, but Thanksgiving traditions haven’t.  And neither has the need to fight against want, especially in a recession.   Which is where President-elect Obama comes in.  Earlier today he made a visit to a food bank on the south side of Chicago and helped give out groceries to people queuing up.  Yes, this was a symbolic visit.  But powerful symbolism.  Obama was at the head of the foodbank, just as (unlike Bush) he is putting himself at the head of efforts to turnaround the US economy, and push ahead with healthcare reform.  And his message about compassion and service to the community was very different from what Bush would likely have come out with.  As highlighted already on DailyKos, the pool report by Tom de Frank describes that when Obama was asked why he’d brought his daughters along, he replied: “I want them to learn the importance of how fortunate they are and to make sure they’re giving back.”  

Here’s more of a flavour of the event:.

The First Family-to-be were positioned at the start of the food line; their job was to hand out white plastic bags filled with fresh chicken. Recipients then moved down the line to receive bags of potatoes, apples, loaves of bread and large boxes of staples including macaroni and cheese, tomato sauce, peanut butter, canned corn, oatmeal, Miracle Whip, mixed fruit and other items.

Obama called out: “We’re ready, let’s go, bring ’em on in,” and the distribution began.

Clearly, those lining up for food hadn’t been told they had an importangt guest helping out. this day. Many of them lit up; some shrieked with delight and hugged one or more of the Obamas. One elderly woman bowed; all seemed very appreciative. One and all were greeted with handshakes, hugs, and hearty “Happy Thanksgivings.”

The daughters behaved like troopers for a half hour or so before the cold caught up with them, and they retired for a few minutes to warm up.

One sixty-something neighborhood resident named Daryel Namdan was asked how it felt to have Obama there. “It makes me feel very special,” he said, before choking up.After shaking hands with the food bank volunteers, he came over to the pool and had this to say:

“The number of people who are getting food this year is up 33%. It gives a sense times are tough – and I think that on Thanksgiving it’s important for us to remember there’s a need for support.

“These folks were already oftentimes having a tough time, and it gets tougher now.” He encouraged all Americans of means to help out however they could. “This is part of what Thanksgiving should be all about,” he said.

Asked why he’d brought his daughters along, he replied: “I want them to learn the importance of how fortunate they are and to make sure they’re giving back.”

Then the family walked into the basement auditorium of the school, where about 200 kids from several grades were seated on the floor. When the Obamas walked onto the stage just befofe noon, the kids went nuts, leaping to their feet and cheering. “How’s everybody doing?” he asked, coming down off the stage to mingle and inquire about their Thanksgiving plans.

Tom DeFrank
New York Daily News


November 27, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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