Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The past and the future are linked for all time

February 6, 2008

Frances Vaughn, former newspaper owner and wife of former Mayor Marion Vaughn, was at one time head of the film review board for the state of Kansas.

From time to time, she would take me along with her to review films, age and content appropriate. After the viewing, we would go to lunch, where I learned the appropriate social behavior associated with fine dining, and we discussed the film. I was probably 9 or 10 at the time; an impressionable age when the mind is ripe for learning.

And learn I did; not simply how to unfold a white linen napkin and place it upon one's lap, but how to think critically as well. The former aided me in later years at black tie affairs and the latter served me throughout my lifetime. It was an invaluable gift made by a well educated, socially prominent woman to the child of a working-class mother.

My mother was not always working class; she was born on a 1,600-acre ranch, only child of a well educated, politically active mother who traveled the country advocating for women, and who was recognized for her efforts by presidential commendation.

The ranch and subsequent wealth were lost during the depression; it was a loss from which my family never completely recovered. There was, however, a preservation of social graces and concern for social justice; they simply needed to be tapped.

That's what Frances Vaughn did - tapped the inherent ability to be comfortable with people of all walks of life; in the midst of plenty, remember those whose lives are not equally blessed.

I've thought of these early lessons in listening to the presidential debates; wondering who best to lead our country during the years ahead; the oft-repeated refrain that this is not about the past, this is about the future.

You simply can't have one without the other. The past informs the future; it is a blueprint we either follow or modify. Without past lessons learned, we are likely to forge into the future repeating old mistakes and unable to take advantage of advice of others who have garnered wisdom and experience as they have maneuvered perils and overcome failure on the road to success.

As much as we would like to run from the past, it is the wheels of the cart upon which we ride. We can learn to fold our napkins and make appropriate social responses; unless we learn to think critically and analyze outcomes, our journey will be circular.

For president, we need a person with experience, with success that has evolved out of failed attempts; informed by the past with an eye to the future, with courage and stamina to stand firm in the face of adversity; comfortable with all walks of life, in the midst of plenty, remembering those not equally blessed. Someone like Frances Vaughn.

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