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The Good Press - Issue #41: Be The Light

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The Good Press

January 27 · Issue #41 · View online

A newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind


Amanda Gorman’s inspiring poetry at the inaugural dared us to dream bigger than ever before. We should all strive to be the light that we want to see in the world.
Plus: a tribute to a legendary figure in baseball history, the late, great Henry Aaron.

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Good Press, a newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind.
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Amanda Gorman lit up the inauguration (Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
Amanda Gorman lit up the inauguration (Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
Be The Light
I want you to press pause on reading the newsletter for a few minutes. That’s not something a newsletter writer would normally ask, but I think if you take a few minutes to watch this short video, you’ll understand why it’s worth it. I humbly ask you to pause the newsletter for a few minutes and go watch this:
Amanda Gorman's original poem, "The Hill We Climb," as performed at the inaugural
Maybe you saw this last Wednesday when 22-year-old Amanda Gorman read her original work of poetry, “The Hill We Climb,” at the inaugural event. Whether or not you watched it live, I encourage you to watch her read it again. Marvel as I did at her words, her delivery, her clarity, her sheer talent. It’s incredible to me how much power Gorman can pack into a little less than six minutes. Verse after verse, stanza after stanza, the youngest inaugural poet in United States history mesmerized Americans far and wide with her words and her spirit. She is a living embodiment of how bright the future is.
Amanda Gorman Captures the Moment
As I wrote last week, the inauguration felt different this year, because it was as much a tribute to American democracy as anything resembling “politics.” There was extra *oomph* to the proceedings and a lot of rhetoric about healing the divisions that have strained our connections over the years.
Amanda Gorman was the highlight of the proceedings to me, by a long shot. She reminded us all that America can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can lead and look ahead to a brighter future while also atoning for our past; because the past, the present, and the future are inextricably linked.
Her words resonated with me the way they resonated with millions of her fellow Americans, inspiring many to support her by making her upcoming books shoot to the top spots of Amazon’s bestseller’s list in a matter of hours. She delivered an A+ performance that will live forever in the history of inaugural poetry, a performance worthy of the platform she was afforded.
The Political Roots of Amanda Gorman’s Genius
There is so much greatness in her words, but I think she may have saved her best for last, finishing with a flourish of optimism and determination that implores us to step up and do our part in creating a more beautiful tomorrow:
“We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover
In every known nook of our nation
In every corner called our country
Our people diverse and beautiful
Will emerge battered and beautiful
When day comes, we step out of the shade
Aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it”
In Other Words
As Ms. Gorman asked earlier in the poem:
“So, while once we asked how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe
Now, we assert: How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?”
We have such an incredible opportunity ahead of ourselves: to build a better world than the one we inherited, to give younger generations a chance to live in a country that still offers them their unique, personal American dreams. We can be the light that lights up the darkness, by boldly and defiantly daring to conquer the challenges before us as best as we possibly can each day. We can be the light that refuses to stop shining, like the oil in the temple, because we refuse to give the darkness the satisfaction of dimming our radiance.
So many of us have been bludgeoned by a variety of crises that have upended our best-laid plans, but nevertheless, we persist. We dust ourselves off and we endure. We keep climbing that hill because that’s what life is all about. If we’re fortunate enough to have the ability to stand, we will keep climbing.
All of us were dealt a tough hand in 2020, exacerbated by the injustices of what our country has reaped from the poisonous seeds sowed by people in power the last few decades. It’s led to catastrophe for an untold number of us. But we have our spirit. We have our resolve. We have the determination necessary to make the rest of our respective lives count in ways that are meaningful to us. I always do my best to see the light and be the light, and if the youth of our nation are able to keep their wits about them, why can’t we?
I get inspired by the young people, these Generation Z kids. I’m aware of how creaky I sound when I say that, as a millennial born in 1988, but it’s true. Whether it’s Amanda Gorman or Greta Thunberg or the Parkland, FL shooting survivors who have channeled their pain and their anger into action, this generation growing up now is like a shot in the arm that can lift us all up. They are not waiting for the adults to act, they are righteously fighting for it themselves and they refuse to “wait their turn” on urgent issues. Watching these teenagers and twentysomethings carrying more than just their share of the burden that is weighing on all of us (like the health of our planet itself) is inspiring to me. They’re out there doing the work and being the light.
I’ve never been more confident about the next few decades than I am now, since Gorman’s inaugural poem, since the energy of that performance that reverberated from sea to shining sea. We’re all in this together, for better or for worse. I think that if we start with simply choosing to dream big and live our lives with love in our hearts, there is nothing we can’t achieve together.
How can catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
Parting Thoughts
In what feels all too familiar in this era of such tragedy and loss, America lost another iconic figure this week, as baseball legend Henry “Hank” Aaron passed away at the age of 86. One of the greatest players to ever step on a ballfield, “Hammerin’ Hank” is best known for breaking the career home run record once held by Babe Ruth, surpassing the mythical figure back in 1974.
That famous moment, as called by the great Vin Scully, is a sight to behold:
Vin Scully calls Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run
Aaron retired from his playing days 45 years ago, but he is still Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in runs batted in, extra-base hits, total bases, and All-Star Game appearances. His home run record stood for over 30 years.
According to Aaron’s Baseball Hall of Fame biography, Muhammad Ali once called Aaron, “the only man I idolize more than myself.” That says a lot when it comes to Ali and his famous self-confidence, but it also speaks to how revered Aaron was in his heyday (and after it), as a consummate professional who played the game the right way and was a model citizen off the field.
However, as Bradford William Davis wrote in the New York Daily News, to whitewash Aaron’s life story is to diminish the man behind the baseball glory, a reductive trope that too often erases important parts of American history:
Henry Aaron's life’s story is already at risk
I encourage you to read Davis’s piece above, and Sandy Tolan’s piece below, in The Atlantic, about speaking to Aaron and his family for his 1999 book:
What Hank Aaron Told Me | by Sandy Tolan
The statistics will show you that Hank Aaron hit a whopping 755 home runs, with 2297 runs batted in, and 6856 total bases. Those totals, of course, do not include his time in the Negro Leagues in the early 1950s, and therein lies the rub of celebrating his greatness without remembering his struggles.
Aaron was forced to represent something more than himself merely because of the color of his skin. He moved this country forward, at the objections of many, and as Lex Pryor reminded us in The Ringer, we’ve still got work to do.
Hank Aaron Forced America to Change, but it Never Changed Enough | by Lex Pryor, The Ringer
Hammerin’ Hank Aaron and Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg shared a common nickname, which is fitting because they each endured an odious burden placed unfairly upon their backs: vitriolic hate and prejudice against them.
Greenberg dealt with rampant anti-Semitism his entire life, and he had to endure it through gritted teeth because that’s just “the way it is” when you’re the first Jewish baseball star, as he was. Aaron dealt with virulent racism his entire life. He lived long enough to see progress, but not nearly enough.
Future generations of Americans deserve to see serious, permanent change that guarantees liberty and freedom from oppression so that they won’t have to deal with the unconscionable oppression that prevents so many from the same pursuit of happiness that only some Americans are truly afforded.
White nationalism and white supremacist ideologies harm all Americans, even the ones who think they benefit from it. Sooner or later, the U.S. will have to reckon with these sins of the “past,” and as William Faulkner famously wrote many decades ago, “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Indeed, the past is not the past. The past is still with us every day, and if we’re not careful, the ugliest parts of it will continue to linger well into the future. Ignoring the past, trying to move past it without reckoning with its impact? That’s not a satisfactory solution. That is not justice. Without accountability, you can’t have justice. That’s why it’s up to us to continue to shine a light on the hard truths that still need to be reckoned with. It’s up to us to always hold our elected officials to account and to remind them that they work for us.
We can do that, and we should do that. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and there’s a lot of cleaning up to do. To be the light is to be a force for good, so let’s always try to do our best to keep our eyes and ears open, and to always try to be brave enough to see the light; to be brave enough to be the light.
Till next time,
-Jon
Previously in The Good Press
The Good Press - Issue #40: The Big Bet
The Good Press - Issue #39: Smile
The Good Press - Issue #38: A New Chapter
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