Hope for the future
January 19th, 2009I am growing so weary of having a tag placed on me. I was told several years ago by a local "Spin Doctor" who believes he is a public relations expert that describing myself as an Independent was seen in Grand Rapids as being a Democrat. He thought it was funny while I thought it demonstrated his stupidity. How very parochial - how very arrogant - how very, very wrong. (Apologies for the Spin Doctor reference to Roberta King GRCF VP for PR and Marketing and PR & Marketing Specialist Amanda St. Pierre who both represent the most positive aspects of PR, Communications and Marketing! Both are consummate public relations professionals.)
It is on this glorious day we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. anticipating the inauguration of this nation's first African American president - President Barack Obama. Today I am proud to be the age I am - 57 years old with the experience, personal faith, and knowledge to make me strong in both professionally and personally. My defining years were the 1960's and I was most influenced by the civil rights movement as a teenager.
Yes I grew up in an affluent Detroit suburb but no, I did not have a privileged life. I was raised by two down-to-earth parents who were more concerned that I was too shy versus a kid that was a revolutionary. I silently took the time to learn about the world that was beyond the borders of Grosse Pointe. I was not necessarily popular in high school and was part of a class that claimed to number more than 1,000 students and it was hard to be heard above the multitudes! I volunteered to tutor at an inner city elementary school, I worked summers and evenings at The Detroit News alongside kids from across the metro Detroit area, and I read everything I could get my hands regarding social change, human services, community organization and righting the wrongs of oppression and segregation. The riots of 1967 taught me that the border between Detroit and Grosse Pointe was artificial yet so very impenetrable.
As I sit here 40+ years later writing this blog entry, I am mindful that I write it as the President of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation - not Diana Sieger private citizen. There are reasons I am in this position today. I was determined at 21 years old that I was going to do something in my life that had tremendous meaning and that would reach out to help make lives better. It is no surprise that I am at this place in my life and I know how fortunate I truly am. Leading this foundation is a privilege and not something I take for granted.
Martin Luther King, Jr. did make an impression on me as did others who were attempting to right the wrongs that many Americans felt. President Barack Obama represents the hope for a future that will bring people together in a peaceful manner trying to build consensus on things that matter and not build thick walls. He also knows that total agreement on all things of what is the best for our country - our communities is unlikely and how we work things out is important.
Thank you to those who came before President Obama who were instrumental in helping him achieve the position of President. Mayor George Heartwell noted many of those local champions - Champions of Diversity - in his State of the City address on Saturday, January 17th: Maurillia (Molly) Blakely, Marshall Chavez, Dr. Julius Franks (posthumously), Lillian Gill, June Horowitz, Alphonse Lewis, Hon. Lyman Parks, Mary Roberts, Vernis Schad, Dr. Ella Sims, Francisco Vega, and Roger Williams.
Thank you to all of you - you are brave heroes and you paved the way.