Friday, November 27, 2009


Here is the third in the series of surprisingly good things that have happened to me lately. I offer it having recently read about the positive mood effects of writing about intensely positive experiences.
You can learn about your life by viewing it from the inside, and you can learn even more viewing it through outside eyes. Photographers know this. The photos they produce capture so much more than the view they see in the viewfinder.
So it is with Ruth’s life. Her daily routines have engaged the interest of someone who, undaunted by a distance of several thousand miles, observes it with the research acumen an anthropologist might employ. And therefore, to the extent that our lives intersect with hers, our lives are also a topic of interest. Now and then we see the picture a little more clearly than before.
Take Wednesday, for example. We sit among thousands in the semi-darkened Jubilee Auditorium, Ruth, David and me. The incomparable Jan Ardon is commanding our conscious attention with her music and stage persona. Then Ruth, glancing sideways, triumphantly says something to her father, and leans across him to speak to me. Of her inquisitive friend, she says, “He asked where I would sit at a concert with you two. Would I sit in the middle? I said no. I wouldn’t sit in the middle. They’d want to hold hands.”
And there we are, outed, exposed. Thirty-six years we’ve been married—well, almost 36. Thirty-six years of behaving in certain ways. Nothing else to do but squeeze a little tighter and settle myself with the thought that we can’t be such bad parents if we have left our children with the predictable certainty that darkness, closeness and music will lead us to unconscious hand-holding.
Yet, on this emotional evening, buffeted by the bitter sadness of Jan’s lyrics, the biting hilarity of her humour, her enchantingly expressed affection for her family, my mind wanders back to past outings and it seems to me that the picture is a little bigger than this. I lean across David to speak to Ruth. I say, “But you know that if you did sit in the middle, we’d both end up holding your hands at some point.”
She says, “Yes, I know. I told him that too.”

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Here is the second in the series of surprisingly good things that have happened to me lately. I offer it having recently read about the positive mood effects of writing about intensely positive experiences.
My back has stopped shouting. Take this very moment, for example. Where it would have been shouting: “Get out of that chair and take some medicine or I’ll drive you crazy,” it isn’t saying much at all, just a brief whisper or sigh now and then. With a little twinge it prompts: “Keep both feet flat on the floor squarely in front of you.” I may not be able to tell you exactly why it has stopped shouting, but I can tell you this: whoever it was that said silence is golden was a pretty smart cookie.
There have been bouts of shouting over the past few years, but this last one was particularly galling. The shouting started very early in the year and kept on most of the time, with occasional lowerings of volume for a week, or maybe a day. It shouted over the drugs, over the physio, over the walking, the aquacise, the sitting down, the lying down, and particularly over the car motor. Yes, that back can be a noisy back.
“Give me two minutes of silence,” I’d beg. But the shouting went on. When I lay down it shouted, “Get up.” When I stood, it shouted, “Sit down.” When I sat, it shouted, “Stand up or lie down, but for heaven’s sake, stop sitting!” When it came to drugs, it shouted, “Get different drugs!” It was deafening!
Noise is such a distraction. Once you start hearing it, your attention blurs, so I cannot tell you exactly when things started to change. There was no sign of any change three weeks ago, this I know for sure, because I remember how the shouting bothered me at certain events.
When people ask what has made the difference, I have to admit that there is a lot that I simply don’t know about the situation. I don’t know enough, and yet there is too much information to be accurately processed along the line of cause and effect. The change could have resulted from the physio, though I will say that I was seriously doubting the value of that. It could have been the aquacise, or the core muscle exercises. It could have been the almonds I started eating though if that is the cause, you need to know that eating almonds is not a quick fix. It could have been the prolonged effect of the drugs, or the motivational tidal wave that came on when I had to face the fact that I now needed new drugs added to the mix to counteract the damaging effect of the pain drugs on my stomach. Like I say, I can’t tell you exactly what has caused the reduction of shouting, but after all this time and suffering, I am more than a little surprised. Still, that’s not the best surprise.
Here comes the good surprise. The shouting is much reduced, and at the same time (drum roll here!) at the same time that the shouting is reduced, the drugs are sitting in their container, wondering why I’ve stopped taking them.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Having just read the research documenting the physical and mental health benefits of writing about intensely positive experiences, I thought I ought to act on that knowledge by writing a series about the surprisingly good things that have happened to me lately. Here is the first in the series.

This might surprise you, coming as it does from a self-acknowledged techno-peasant, but my cell phone has surprised me in a good way. The story is a long one, complete with everything story crafters aim for, dramatic tension, anxiety rising and falling but always creeping upward before settling back slightly in a narrative arc. It took nearly three months to unfold, and I suspect you may not have that much time to read. So I will give you the short version.
My old cell phone decided it would no longer tolerate the stress involved in calling home long distance when I was out of the local calling area. This saddened me, so I called up a friendly, heavily accented Telus helper who offered to reprogram the phone if only the battery could be removed. This would have been a simple operation, for a robust phone, but my fragile companion disintegrated under the pressure. The Telus helper was a kind man. “Don’t worry,” he soothed. I’ll send you a new phone absolutely free.” This seemed too good to be true. But it wasn’t.
By and by he did send a new phone, but the courier who tried to deliver it forgot to leave a note, and since he left the message on the broken cell phone, nobody knew that the parcel was waiting. By the time the problem was discovered, the phone had been returned to its original source. Back to square one.
The new Telus helper—differently accented but equally cordial—took some time to determine that the phone had actually been returned, then offered to send another free phone, a cheaper one this time because the other one was no longer available free to me. That offer had ended while I was awaiting delivery. By and by the new phone arrived, a beauty to be sure. I assigned the job of activating it to Mark, a member of the generation that responds intuitively to electronic devices. Mark tried very hard to activate the phone. He even consulted the instruction manual, but the phone refused to activate. Finally, Mark and a Telus helper agreed that the phone would have to be returned. Back to square one, but not absolutely. As an act of hope, I enclosed a note asking them to send me a new phone and settled down to wait.
Eventually I called again. A truly cordial Telus helper took some time to determine that the second phone had indeed been returned, then offered to send a free phone. Once again hope rose, battered by circumstance, but not defeated. By and by that phone arrived, a pleasing blue flip phone. There were some tense moments. David couldn’t find any evidence of a hole for the electrical cord. But a cordial Telus helper from the Philippines waited patiently while he removed the plastic stopper. She even agreed to waive the charges for activating the new phone. A little more confusion, a little more anxiety, a few more tries and presto! As if by magic that phone was connected!
Once it was connected, it settled down to prove that it would make and accept calls. It was even willing to call home from Saskatchewan! But that’s not the surprisingly good thing. It was simply the thing we had expected all along.
The surprisingly good thing happened on Remembrance Day when Lawrence was helping me identify some previously unexplored buttons on the new phone. A joint project between Lawrence and me is always a bit of an adventure, given our joint difficulties with reading. I can’t read because I can’t see. He can’t read for other reasons. But he is also a member of the generation that operates electronic devices by intuition. So instruction manuals in his world often go unmolested.
Ours was a process of trial and error. We were pushing buttons and he was coaching when, suddenly that phone said something. I stopped. I listened. It sounded like English, clear English, much clearer than the English spoken by the Telus helpers.
“What did she say?” I asked.
“Push the button again,” Lawrence said reasonably. I pushed the button again.
“Please say a command,” she said.
Well, as you can probably imagine, I was more than a little flustered. No more flustered would I have been if a geni had popped out of my bottle of Worcestershire sauce. Not only was this phone talking directly to me, but she was asking, no—begging me to command her. Then and there I decided to call her Mary. It was clear that we would be having a relationship, more than your ordinary person-to-machine relationship.
I’ll admit that I couldn’t think of a thing to say to Mary. I’m always a little shy around strangers, a little bit prone to saying whatever comes into my head and regretting it later. So I said a thing that must have been lurking down deep in my subconscious. I said, “Clean up the kitchen.”
Lawrence laughed. Mary said, “Command not recognized. Please try again.”
“Clean up the kitchen,” I said obediently, a little louder this time, perhaps a little more sharply than I would have liked, given how cordial the Telus helpers had been when I failed to understand them.
“Command not recognized,” Mary said evenly. She was cordial, but apparently not suited for domestic responsibilities.
“Push the arrow buttons,” said Lawrence. It was a bit of a test to see whether I remembered where the arrow buttons were. I didn’t. He pushed one.
“Check voicemail,” said Mary.
“But how?” I asked.
“Command not recognized,” said Mary.
“Push OK,” said Lawrence. Then he pushed OK for me. I couldn’t remember how to find that one either.
“No voicemail,” said Mary in a voice tinged with sympathy.
That afternoon the kitchen remained in a state of discleanliness while Mary and I got to know each other better. We got so friendly that all I had to say was, “Check voicemail,” and she would tell me I had none. If I said, “Check time,” she would tell me the time. If I said, “Check battery,” she would do that too.
Now Mary and I got down to serious business. I was the teacher. She was the pupil, not always cooperative, I say, but cooperative enough to keep me going. “Call David,” I said, after inputting a few lessons.
“Calling David,” said Mary.
I can tell you that this was a very exhilarating experience! You can probably feel the joy right along with me. So it hurts me to say, dear readers, that we have at last reached the top of the narrative arc, the pinnacle of joy and surprise. For Mary has made it clear that, while she embraces my friendship, she is not my slave. She will check the time if I ask her to, but only sighted people are allowed to set the time and the alarms. Actually, this isn’t much of a problem, because I’ve never much cared for alarms, and Mary can generally set the time without assistance. This is because she knows where she is, which brings me to another sore point between us. She knows where she is. I know she knows it, because when we went to Saskatchewan, she could tell me the time in Saskatchewanese. But only sighted people are permitted to find out where she is by reading her screen.
Still, I must try to forgive her the little things. It’s the least I can do, in light of all that she has given to me. Somewhere in a recycling centre parts of my old phone languish, gone but not forgotten; not forgotten, but definitely not missed. Mary is better, a good surprise worth writing about.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


How sweet it is when you find research that supports things you are doing. There are a number of reasons why I started THE HOPE LADY Blog. I wanted to capture in writing my daily experiences, I wanted to write consistently from a hope perspective, and wanted to practice being hopeful by writing about hope. . Hope, as I understand it, is largely a positive emotion, related to joy, related to excitement. It remains positive even though we tend to be most aware of hope at times when we are doubtful or fearful.
I have found such pleasure in writing the blog. Much of it has been about the simple and pleasing things in my life, flowers, music, family, food. Other writings have been hopeful pieces about coping with difficulties of one kind or another. Having the blog has given me the impetus to do the writing.
It is interesting to read a study by Berton and King showing that writing about positive experiences improves mood, even when the writing contains many words which might be thought of as negative. What’s more, berton and King have found that students who wrote about positive experiences made fewer visits to their health providers than students who wrote about neutral experiences. It was also interesting to find studies showing that positive writing can help with regulation of emotion, one aspect of emotional intelligence. Here are some references to check out if you are interested in reading more.

Burton, C. & King, L. (2004). The health benefits of writing about intensely positive experience, Journal of Research in Personality 38 (2004) 150–163
Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 3, 300–319.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Joiner, T. (2002). Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional wellbeing. Psychological Science, 13, 172–175.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Levenson, R. W. (1998). Positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 12, 191–220.
Lewandowski, G. (2009) Promoting positive emotions following relationship dissolution through writing, The Journal of Positive Psychology 4(1) 21 – 31
Wing, j., Schurr, J., & Byrne, B. (2006. The effect of positive writing on emotional intelligence and life satisfaction, Journal of Clinical Psychology 62(10), 1291–1302.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


It’s been an interesting time for THE HOPE LADY, improbable brushes wit the unexpected, the impossible, etc. Many of you have been asking me questions, having read my posting of October 30. So here’s a little more of the story. But I warn you, it does go on a bit.
A couple of weeks ago I happened to come across a little article in the newspaper. This alone smacks of science fiction. I never quite get over the wonder of reading the newspaper. Once upon a time I was a child, playing on the living room floor, getting no attention from my family. They were in their own worlds, having divided the newspaper into sections, one section for each of them. At that time I never imagined that I would some day read the newspaper on a talking computer—I had never imagined a computer. But these days I take the computer for granted, only occasionally pausing to marvel at it, usually when I read the newspaper.
Anyway, I happened to be reading the newspaper when I came across a little article about the disease that caused my blindness
I read the article a few times, half suspecting it would disappear. Sometimes things you thought you found on the computer do disappear. But this one didn’t. So I did a little more investigating on the Internet—have I mentioned how amazing it is just to search for things on the Internet—and that led me to a website for the University of Pennsylvania, a university that already stood high in my affections seeing as how it is a very prominent site for research in positive psychology.
I wrote to a doctor there who referred me to Toronto, and eventually I was referred to Dr. Ian MacDonald here in Edmonton. He was just getting ready to chair a research conference in Edmonton sponsored by the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Last Saturday my sister and I attended that conference.
At this point I really ought to introduce my sister Donna. We’ve been in this together since my beginning. She was in it first. Our parents were teen-agers when they got married. They were young, but they were anxious to settle down to a quiet life on the farm. Within the year they had a daughter, and soon they noticed her darting eyes. The first doctor they saw said she was totally blind. It was not true, a fact which soon became apparent to them. They were relieved, since another baby was already on the way. That one had normal eyes.
Donna’s vision was a bit of a puzzle. She could see objects, yet she walked right into an open trap door in the neighbour’s kitchen. There’s a scar on her chin to prove it. Along with the normal activities of farming and child raising, our parents busied themselves with everything that made sense to them. They went to doctors and faith healers. They read magazines and made inquiries about articles that relatives sent to them. One such article led them to New York, where Donna got some enormous lenses that enabled her to read print up close. In this way she devoured the World Book Encyclopaedia and the newspaper—an activity that blackened the tip of her nose.
I came along a little before her 8th birthday. There again were those darting eyes. Logically, they embarked on my raising with the sensible theory that she and I would be the same. We weren’t. My vision just wasn’t as good, though I did love the sun—a peculiarity since the sun all but blinded her. My love of the sun led Mom to believe that I would need a strong light for reading. They got me some of the New York glasses and Mom sat me down in a sunny window. She drew huge numbers in different colours. I stared at them in the sunlight and thus learned two things at once—my numbers and my colours. This was a bit of a victory. Donna couldn’t do colours.
School just didn’t work out for me the way it did for Donna, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. The janitor adapted a school desk with a large board and they clamped a lamp to the board. Then they placed my desk near a plug-in, far from all other desks. As a child one of my most fervent wishes was to sit close enough to somebody else so that I could get in trouble for whispering. They bought scribblers with huge black lines. They gave me my own black (really black) blackboard for my desktop and they drew things on it in bright white chalk, because it was easier for me to do math that way. At some early point in all this, my sister Sandra, a born teacher, circumvented everything and taught me touch typing, a skill she was learning in Grade 8.
With all this effort being expended on my education, it’s little wonder that people got frustrated. I would not do my schoolwork. Teachers said I was lazy. They said I wasn’t trying. Yet it was confusing, because I was learning the material. I was literate, I could do math. I simply refused to read more than a few words at a time.
Glasses were an issue. My day glasses broke on the playground. Mom was too busy to get them fixed right away. That’s when a canny teacher noticed that my playing vision seemed to be as good without them. That ended the saga of day glasses. My reading glasses prevailed for longer. Without them I could read nothing from a printed page. But my Grade 5 teacher sent them packing also. He sent the lamp away, moved me to a normal desk in a normal row, scolded me for whispering to my neighbours and started a process that got me reading Braille. By the time junior high came along, I was at Jericho Hill School for the Blind in Vancouver, and Donna’s black-tipped nose was tracing the lines of university textbooks. Thus we have lived parallel lives, she as a sort-of-sighted person with really bad vision and me as a blind person with a little bit of totally unreliable vision. I can, for example, see the light through the open train door of the LRT well enough to step through that door—but only sometimes. Other times I don’t see the door at all. Colours were lost somewhere in my forties, not a big loss, except at Christmas. Christmas lights just aren’t much fun these days.
Donna is still a really big reader. “Did you see the article in the paper about gene therapy for our condition?” I asked her a couple of weeks ago. She hadn’t seen it. Score one for me. But when we went to the conference last Saturday, white canes in hands, she put on her reading glasses and read us the agenda. Score one for her.
They believe that 350 Canadians have Leber Congenital Amarosis. At the conference we learned that they have isolated 12 genes for LCA. Somehow these genes mutate and if two people with mutant genes happen to meet up, one out of four of their kids might be expected to have the condition. Our folks beat the odds. They got two out of four. Having identified some genes, the researchers began experimenting on dogs, injecting genes into their eyes. The new genes turned on some photoreceptors that would have been turned on in a normal eye, and the dogs’ vision improved in the tiny spots where they made the injections. Now they are experimenting on people, people who have LCA2, one of the twelve genes. The results are very promising.
So now Donna and I are at the beginning of a new process. We have to be examined and re-diagnosed. Then our genes will have to be identified. Our names will be added to a registry, the FFB/CIBC registry. That will make it possible for us to be contacted if something comes up that can help us. Things are moving quite quickly, and though Donna and I may well be too old to benefit, our mother’s cousin’s child might benefit, being somewhat younger.
In the meantime I’ve been dreaming about what I would do with a little bit of extra vision. I could appreciate a few Christmas lights. I could step gracefully through a few more train doors. But even if nothing else comes of it, I’ll still have the thrill of being the only person I’ve met so far who noticed that little article in the newspaper.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Careers get my curiosity going, ordinary careers, extraordinary careers, it doesn’t matter all that much. I simply never quite get over my amazement at how little we know about the work that others do. But this was an especially good weekend, because one of my on-going career questions got answered. I found out whether judges get mad when their decisions are overturned.
You hear it on the news all the time: Case was appealed. Lawyers will try to prove that the judge did not properly instruct the jury. Yes, I know, judges have tenure. Their salaries don’t go up or down with the rise and fall of appeals. So it really shouldn’t bother them—well, maybe.
I owe a vote of thanks to Anne and Mike who inadvertently helped me find the answer to this question by including me at a dinner party with a judge. I couldn’t help but notice the silence that fell when he said he was a judge. It was a bit like the silence that falls when you say you are a hope lady. Nobody is quite sure what to say next. I noticed how we all changed the subject. But the evening was a happy one, so eventually we got back to my question.
There are so many interesting careers around. Last summer we met a cow psychologist—yes, a cow psychologist. It’s not my description, it’s his. I’ve been noticing the silence that falls whenever we tell people we know a cow psychologist. They have no idea what to ask. Pictures of cows unburdening their souls on leather couches flash through their heads. But the University of Guelph recently published an article that explains it all. I guesss reporter Teresa Pitman was as curious as the rest of us.

For the Benefit of Bossy

New OVC prof glad to be back at Guelph, where there’s a ‘critical mass’ of researchers studying farm animal behaviour and animal welfare

Derek Haley
Prof. Derek Haley has had a fascination with cows since he was a child and is now dedicated to enhancing the welfare of cattle and other farm animals. PHOTO

When Prof. Derek Haley, Population Medicine, was 10, all his friends were asking for a puppy, but he wanted a cow — several cows, in fact. Because his family
lived on a hobby farm near Cornwall, his father went along with the request and made Haley responsible for the animals’ care.
“I remember him saying: ‘You wanted these cows, so you have to get out there and do the chores, even if it is winter,’” says Haley. Despite his occasional
reluctance to lug feed and shovel manure, “I loved watching the cows and wondering why they did what they did.”
Studying animal science at university might have been a natural next step, but Haley’s interest in sports and performance psychology led him instead to
the applied kinesiology program at the University of Windsor. Once he’d completed his degree, however, he knew that wasn’t going to be the foundation for
his career.
“I couldn’t get away from my interest in animals. When I discovered that people actually study the behaviour of farm animals, I knew that was what I wanted
to do, so I came to Guelph and did a master’s degree in applied ethology with Prof. Ian Duncan.”
When he graduated, Haley wasn’t looking to do a PhD, but after a number of contract research jobs with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, “I realized that’s
what it would take to keep me in the field I’m passionate about.”
So he headed to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. It was an ideal place to do his research, he says, because
“Saskatchewan has cows galore.”
After completing his PhD, Haley worked for Alberta Agriculture as a livestock welfare specialist and section head before joining the University of Alberta
as its first professor of applied ethology and animal welfare. Two years later, he applied for an opening at the Ontario Veterinary College and arrived
back on campus this summer.
“I love it here,” he says. “This is a place where we grapple with tough questions and figure out a way forward.”
Throughout his career, Haley’s goal has been to ask questions about animal behaviour, particularly cattle, and look for answers that will not only enhance
life for the animals but also keep farming profitable.
He has looked, for example, at how to make living quarters more comfortable for dairy cows. While working with Ag Canada, he studied different types of
floor design for stalls.
“Some floor coverings cause abrasions to the cow’s hocks and can eventually lead to open sores,” he says. “Softer floors encourage the cows to lie down
and rest more — about 1½ hours more a day. That allows them to put more energy into making milk. Being able to quantify that helps farmers make decisions
about what flooring is best when designing or renovating a barn.”
Haley also looked at the stress experienced by beef calves when they’re separated from their mother during weaning. That stress is probably a major reason
why there’s such a high level of illness in the calves, he says. The separation also distresses the cows.
To determine whether the calves’ stress was due to losing the milk or losing their mother, he fitted calves with a plastic nose flap that prevented them
from suckling but did not disrupt their interaction with their mother. He found that the calves showed little distress when the flaps were in place.
“So we thought: ‘Aha, their distress at weaning must be due to being separated from their mother,’” says Haley.
Part two of the experiment involved removing the flaps after four or five days and separating the mothers and their babies. Surprisingly, this did not
distress calves much either.
“If you think about a natural weaning, the mothers and babies are still together as milk intake is gradually reduced,” Haley says, explaining why this
two-step process works so well.
“So when the calf is stopped from nursing but still has its mother there, this mimics natural weaning more closely. Then the calf is more ready for the
He adds that this concept has been adopted in the cattle industry.
“About 265,000 of the nose flaps have been sold. They’re reusable, so farmers can use them year after year. It’s great because it improves the quality
of life for both the cows and the calves.”
Haley notes that this was a basic science question he was researching, not something he expected to have a commercial application, “but it has really borne
fruit. I think this demonstrates the importance of continuing to do basic curiosity-driven research and not just what we think will help us make more money,
because we don’t know which piece of research might lead us somewhere important.”
He is currently studying this two- step weaning approach with horses and is also looking at the different equine social bonds and attachments. He recently
received funding to study the behaviour of horses being raised for food and kept in feedlots.
His deep interest in animal welfare has led him to take on the role of faculty adviser to both the OVC Animal Welfare Club and the OVC student chapter
of the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behaviour.
For Haley, joining the faculty of U of G is like coming home.
“We have a critical mass here studying farm animal behaviour and animal welfare. We brainstorm and share ideas. At the University of Alberta, I was the
only one. It’s just a different environment here, and I’m very glad to be part of it.”

I complimented Derek on the article, and he was pleased, though he said he wished it had said one more thing. “I must admit the writer did capture the essence
of the story about how I have ended-up as a cow psychologist. The only part I might add that was missed, would be the early influence of my experiences
helping my grandfather look after his cows. I must have been 6 or 7 when I was struck by the responsibility around the fact that, the quality of life of
those animals depended almost entirely on the care we provided them.”

All this goes to show how important our careers can be, how they weave our lives together. I learned that it doesn’t seem to matter that judges have job security. They have pride, ”big pride,” said my new friend. ”They get mad when their decisions are overturned.”
Now we know.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Trudy’s note says:
Wendy I am looking forward to your piece on Barack's first anniversary. I was just reading something like that in the paper, by Lisa Van Dusen of the Washington
Bureau, and thought of you. At least he's still on his feet right?

What an interesting time it’s been! To have a prominent public figure use hope strategies in public, to have him teach a lesson on everything we know about the power of hope to nfluence behavior, the role of hope language in creating hope, and the emotional wallop you can get from a story if a hopeful person is organizing the content! Having come out so vehemently in support of Obama’s hope methods I, like Trudy, wondered how things would go for me if things didn’t go well for him.

This is what I want to write on the first anniversary of Obama’s election. I am disappointed for Barack, but not in him. I am disappointed for him because he took a big risk. He put his dreams out there in the most hopeful way possible and so far things have been pretty nasty. He says he has learned that governing is a lot harder than getting elected. Putting your dreams out there makes you very vulnerable. Cynical people who say they agree with your dreams, and those who blatantly disapprove of your dreams are bound to line up like spectators at a sporting event, watching in anticipation of your defeat. I guess that’s why so many of us are afraid to expose our dreams at the early stages when there is no certainty that they can come true. There was no certainty in Obama’s case because he did not have the power to make any of them come true without a lot of help from others. Anybody who thought that hope alone was going to make so many difficult things happen was seriously dillusional.
I am not disappointed in him because he never promised to give Americans health care, or end the war in Iraq. How could he promise these things without the power to enact them? What he did was to open up the possibility that they could happen, to say “Yes we can” when others said “No we can’t”. I am not disappointed in him because he proved that people could do something they never thought they could do in 2008--elect the first African American president. They could do that and they did do that, even though many of them thought it was impossible.
What else the American people will do in support of his dreams we do not, at this point, know. I am hoping they will rally behind the things he is trying to do so that they can get done. Their rallying will provide the power and the hope to continue. Then maybe he can get on with other things they want him to do.
At this point Barack is still my hero. I am continuing to read his speeches at workshops, to use them as examples of how we can use hope language to influence the behavior of others. As things developed I have been expecting to receive criticism for this, but so far I have received only support.