I'm about to become a mom. If all goes as expected, I'll be bringing a baby boy into the world sometime in the first week of January. To say it's an overwhelming experience is both completely obvious and a pretty severe understatement.
In practical terms, it probably means I'll be posting here a bit less often, as I'll be taking some time off from my work at The Greenlining Institute. But I'll still be sounding off from time to time -- albeit on a schedule dictated by the newest and undoubtedly most vocal member of my family.
And there's nothing like impending motherhood to get you thinking about what kind of world your child is coming into -- and what sort of world you wish for. I don't think I'm being naïve to hope for a world in which he can pursue his dreams and has a fair shot at going wherever his imagination, talents and dedication can take him.
That is the essence of the American Dream, but it's a far cry from the American reality.
My little boy will have a lot of advantages, but I hope he'll be in a school where he can interact with kids from all sorts of backgrounds and circumstances and learn about those differences, a school where he'll be guided by dedicated teachers who have the resources they need to do their jobs well. Here in California, with yet another round of state budget cuts imminent, that's far from guaranteed. The fact that this is even in doubt is a mark of eternal shame on our society.
And I hope he'll be in a school where none of his classmates live in terror that their family will be broken up because their parents don't have the proper immigration papers.
If he chooses to go to college, I'd like him to be able to graduate without a mountain of debt that constricts his horizons and narrows his options before he even lands his first job. Back in the 1960s, California was a pioneer in guaranteeing access to higher education at minimal cost to any student who qualified. Those days are long gone, here and in many other states, and we are all poorer for it.
In the course of my son's life, he will deal with businesses of all shapes and sizes. I want them to treat him fairly. That may seem like an odd thing for a mom to be thinking about, but I spend every day addressing how businesses -- particularly in the banking and financial sector -- interact with their customers and their communities. I've seen the good they can do as well as the harm, and the role government can play.
If some financial institution lends my son money, I want to know that there won't be hidden traps and time bombs buried in the fine print that will maximize the company's profit while torching his future. I'd prefer that those financial institutions behave honestly and ethically just because it's the right thing to do and ultimately good for business, but if they're inclined to cheat, I want someone to be able to stop them.
And I want that someone to be part of the government that I and my fellow voters have chosen to act on our behalf, as part of our collective responsibility to ensure that our society treats all fairly. And I want those decisions protected from the corrupting influence of special-interest money, in a system that recognizes that corporations are not people and that the market is a mechanism, not a god. We're actually very close to achieving some of this little piece of my dream, but a group of Republicans in the Senate are doing their best to stop it. It's infuriating.
What I want more than anything is a nation with a sense of community, a nation that recognizes that we're all in this together, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, and that celebrates our diversity and individuality while understanding that we can't be completely on our own. We have responsibilities to each other, to our community.
In practical terms, that means businesses that look out their windows and see communities that they belong to, not just profits to be reaped. It means understanding that while in the short run a company may make money by simply taking as much as it can get, in the long run, healthy, thriving communities are good for everyone, including the businesses that serve them.
It means that as citizens participating in our government and our society, "I've got mine and you're on your own" is an attitude that ultimately hurts us all. There are things that we all need, from good schools to clean air to opportunities for education and advancement, that individuals can't create by themselves. We must do them together.
That's what I'd like for the little boy I'm about to bring into the world: A nation that lives up to the motto on the Great Seal of the United States: e pluribus unum -- "out of many, one."