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Open Letter to Barack Obama

By       Message Margaret Bassett       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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Dear Senator:
I've listened to Jeremiah Wrights's interview with Bill Moyers, and then his presentation at the Press Club, even paying attention to which outtakes happened at the Moyers event.
But most of what I am thinking about is your first book. I worked in the Chicago area from 55 to 77. Since then I live in East Tennessee. In Chicago I was lucky enough to learn computer programming while Spiegel was still on 35th Street. You want to know what I was doing during the Democratic convention in 1968? It was getting past the police traffic delays at every corner on the way home.
It was about that time I was Sunday School Superintendent at North Berwyn Congregational Church and we were busy. There were meetings to pass the Anti-Ballistic Missile program. We were engaged with COCU and CALC, both organizations that the United Church of Christ was working with. What some might find quizzical was that there wasn't a black person in Berwyn. The church, as you may know, is just off Roosevelt Road at Oak Park Avenue. And many white people, including some in our church, vowed that blacks would never cross Roosevelt to our side. Didn't matter to us. We went to interracial fellowship meetings with an ecumenical group from the area. Viet Nam energized everyone, but unfortunately not nearly on one side. What helped was that times were pretty good in Chicagoland. It was before companies like Spiegel moved west along the Interstate.
By the time Rev. Wright came to Trinity the Rust Belt was taking over. We wondered if the old motto "Chicago, the town that works" would ever come back. I was glad to learn from your book that the ministers on the South Side were smart enough to ask for organizers. As you know, we had a lot of social activism during Nam days. Your story of Altgeld Gardens reminded me of friends who worked with children at Cabrini Green.
My good friend was a public school teacher. Once, she invited me to her class in an old telephone exchange building on the West Side. The kids were there for remedial work and my friend asked me to stop off as I headed to my job downtown on the Douglas El. I will never forget one bright-eyed little girl who explained to me why she wanted to learn arithmetic. Best answer around: so no one would cheat her.
For the last eight years of my career I taught computer programming and operations. Some of the greatest students I ever had were recent high school graduates, many from the projects. It was great when there were grants and scholarships. But I know things turned bitter--if I may use the word--as technology took over and what started as a Great Society turned into a safety net with holes. As I said, I'm glad you came along to help. I'm glad Trinity's pastor was there, too. And I'm glad you met Harold Washington. I, too, have a degree from Roosevelt University. Never met him, but enjoyed your discussion.
Please tell Michelle that I'm in her corner. That woman has it right. Take care of the kids or there'll be no one to take care of their kids and even you. People helping people. That's what it's all about. John Edwards understands that. He thinks pretty much like people on this side of the Smokies.
I've been a widow for 15 years and took it upon myself to get acquainted with the neighbor children. It sure hurts to see a child lose that "why" spark. Our children have hard working parents with low wages and high expectations. They have little time to just enjoy their children.
Now that I push 90 years, I wonder what I've ever done with my life. It comes back to the kids! Children from a mixed neighborhood in Berwyn (Catholic/Protestant); students from Chicago public high schools as technology made their diplomas obsolete; and then the ones in my new hometown who suffered through school shootings, killings at the World Towers, and this mis-begotten war–through all that and they persist in working hard and learning more as young adults. Children need inspiration. I do think maybe there is hope when their older brothers and sisters go out and work hard to make their government work for them.

Keep the faith!



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Margaret Bassett passed away August 21, 2011. She was a treasured member of the editorial team for four years.

Margaret Bassett--OEN editor--is an 89-year old, currently living in senior housing, with a lifelong interest in political philosophy. Bachelors from State University of Iowa (1944) and Masters from Roosevelt University (1975) help to unravel important requirements for modern communication. Early introduction to computer science (1966) trumps them. It's payback time. She's been "entitled" so long she hopes to find some good coming off the keyboard into the lives of those who come after her.

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