An ode (of sorts) to the First | Moment's Notice
Last updated 11/12/2020 at 10:51pm
Ode: A lyric poem usually marked by exaltation of feeling and style, varying length of line, and complexity of stanza forms; something that shows respect for or celebrates the worth or influence of another.
There are few works of poetry better than a good ode.
An ode is a lyric poem inspired as a tribute to an adored person or thing. Reading an ode warms our hearts through straightforward appreciation, and we could all benefit from appreciating each other more in this complex world.
No poet mastered the ode like Pablo Neruda (no disrespect to Keats). Who else could conjure the words “men do not implore unclear gods or obscure angels” when describing the beauty of a loaf of bread?
I am no Neruda, so I struggle to find the adequate words to celebrate the moment when Kamala Harris walked on to a stage as the first woman of color (a Black and Asian-American woman) elected to the second-highest office in our country. The significance – socially, economically, physically, emotionally – came over me like a wave.
In that moment, the potential for women and girls in this country shifted. The pictures in my head of what it means to be a woman began to be redrawn, and a new narrative overwriting real-life experiences.
But my ode (of sorts) to the value and influence of this very big First in our American existence is more of a look to what could be, an envisioning what may now begin to fall away.
A young Black woman or Latina is no longer told to choose a less challenging college, or not to go to college at all, by her high school guidance counselor. Fewer young women will post self-doubt on social media, like, ”You want to go on a walk or a hike by yourself, but then you remember you’re a girl,” or “He was wrong, but I agreed with him so he would stop telling me he was right.”
As women regard each other, there will not be a bow of the head as they recognize a retreat or tremble as the signs of a past assault. The young professional’s dream of the corner office is not compromised by the nervous laugh when cornered in an elevator.
The lines of the caricature that was drawn early in my childhood have started to be erased, of that imposed image of a girl who only adds value by being pretty or only wanting so much.
Instead, we believe the truth.
We believe what our mothers told us, albeit with caution. The truth that women have served successfully in the highest offices in democracies around the world for decades and lead societies for thousands of years. Women have achieved greatness as scholars and spiritual leaders, as scientists and legal minds. Women in corporate executive positions usher in higher rates of return, better decision-making, and superior growth.
We have existed under a complex and exhausting set of expectations or, better put, under-expectation.
Our country, the United States of America, is supposed to be capable of anything, of imagining and creating and realizing dreams, but it has long restricted the potential of some of its most gifted citizens.
Ms. Harris said she would not be the last woman in that office, and she is right, because in her words, “Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities." She chose a song to accompany her on to the stage, written 13 years ago by Mary J. Blige, that sounds now like a premonition … words of respect and celebration for herself but also someone who would earn a special place in history.
Just as with any ode, her lyricism paid homage to the gravity of that moment for so many of us.
There's so many girls I hear you been running
From the beautiful queen that you could be becoming
You can look at my palm and see the storm coming
Read the book of my life and see I've overcome it
We can now more accurately write the story or draw the picture of ourselves from the world we see around us.