02/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Exhaling ... Finally

Years ago, when an ice storm raged between us and our destination, we pulled off the road, got a room, and walked to the movies. "Waiting to Exhale" was showing. I use that title to answer, "What'd you do for the holidays?" Listening to the resurrection of democracy is another answer.

As we wait with bated breath for 12 noon, January 20, 2009, we've been hearing stories small and large of people of re-engaging. Having endured the ravages of Bushdom, the culmination of 40 years of McCarthy-ist poison and unrestrained corpocracy, reclaiming responsibility for our well-being and our futures will take some getting used to.

While I was re-establishing a new center of gravity, we were also pulling together our website featuring Frank Delaney. He's as Irish as his name, and really is from Tipperary, the name he gave to his latest novel. What does he care most about? The process of democratization for which he says Ireland is a "terrific" example to the world. In fact, he recommends it, strongly, to those of us who live in the United States (as did another Irish guest we welcomed years back, Gerry Adams).

Mr. Delaney describes himself as "astounded" by Americans' "timidity." Much as he loves us -- enough to move here in fact -- Mr. Delaney holds Ireland up as a splendid model for people power. We're not pushing back enough, he insists. He does commend what he sees going on still in small (New England) towns, and is dismayed by its over-all absence nationally. His 80 year old mother would never abide the kind of things we've endured, he assure us.

America, he says, has only for "we, the people" to find own voice to be the greatest nation on earth. And, oh yes, you make your own luck, he reminds us.

So here are some of the ways people with whom we've engaged these past weeks are making their own luck, starting at 11:01pm, EST, Tuesday, November 4, 2008.

We've heard lots of bashful self-reports of how proud people are of themselves for making eye contact with strangers -- sometimes even a smile! (Imagine that.) Or realizing they too could assist the guy in line whose English is a whole lot better than the Russian none of us speak. A very-Republican physician insists we must give Obama the benefit of the doubt as he struggles with monumental challenges. Another doc is adamant that we must embrace the only possible solution to our disastrous not-health care not-system: a strong single-payer system no longer run by Big Insurance and Big Pharma.

We've listened with rapt attention to stories of people's surprises and delights when their occasions of all descriptions included newcomers -- a neighbor whose husband died the week before, a stranded student, the proverbial "black sheep" of the family -- to what had been "Members Only" feast days. Some of us simply worked a bit harder to put up with that irritating individual which every gathering seems to harbor.

Our neighbor reports her condo association's strongly-Republican chair has rescheduled their 3rd-Tuesday-night-of-the-month this January. He plans to celebrate the new Presidency and wants others to be free to do the same.

What do these tiny actions have to do with democracy? Everything. And some are not so tiny.

A baby-boomer friend who's retired to the North Georgia where he grew up told of accepting the invitation of local farmers to run for County Commission. They felt he'd give "both sides" -- newcomers and longtime residents alike -- a fair hearing. We toasted his election along with the new year. While Commissioner Mulkey's January "inauguration" will be less heralded than that of President Obama, it is no less important.

A friend in New England has chosen again to embrace the 24/7 responsibility as one of her town's Selectmen. Like the Commissioner, she receives no monetary compensation, but counts herself rich because she's doing her part in a nation of self-governing people.

Frederick Ferré keeps me mindful that ugliness is forever with us. This time, the challenge ahead was manifest in the mechanic our friends encountered as they prepared to move home to Canada. He wanted to know if he could go too. "It might be cold up there," he said, "And you people talk funny. But America will never be the same with that n****r in the White House."


Finally, on my first sojourn of the year into our local, urban park, the intense expression of the hip-hop savvy guy walking toward me left no doubt that he was fully engaged with the person at the other end of his mobile. All the same, it felt as if he were speaking to me, and for us all as we take steps small and large to resuscitate our better angels on whose hopes our nation, however flawed, was built. "...then you have to do the WORK!" he said.

"Just Do It!" never sounded so good. And it's exactly what the promise of a thriving democracy now requires of us all. Democracy is a process not a destination. President Obama can provide leadership but the daily, gritty work of democracy falls to each of us, along with all its glorious benefits. Resurrection ... and Redemption.

You can access the YouTube excerpt from our conversation with Frank Delaney and Frederick Ferré at our website or go straight to Hear whole programs in (MP3 as well as RealAudio) at You'll also find our show with Gerry Adams, and Ha Jin, the author of Waiting, along with hundreds of other "...People at the Leading Edge"(sm) who've been broadening the horizons of our Internet listeners since 1997.