Monday, January 19, 2009

This is a letter I penned a couple of days after the election. I never sent it. There are many people vying for the attention of the president elect and tomorrow president; it would just languish or create more work for a staffer anyway.
So here it is, for whenever Mr. Obama happens across it at his leisure.
You may read it too, if you are so inclined...

President Elect Barack H. Obama
P.O. Box 8102
Chicago, IL, 60680

Adam Burningham

05 November 2008

Dear Mr. Obama,
I would like to join the millions in America and the world congratulate you for your accomplishment and thank you for the extremely hard work you’ve done over the past two years. I can only imagine the amount of stress and labor that you and your family have had to endure and put forth. I wish you all the best in your job ahead.
I am a native westerner living in a very small town in one of the most rural and least affluent counties in Utah. I am also a teacher- I teach at a small alternative high school supported by two rural school districts and housed on a junior college campus. Our county is predominately conservative, and those who do not conform to the communities’ religious and social norms are often marginalized socially and economically. The kids I teach, often referred to as at-risk or troubled youth, become such often as a result of consequences of their parent’s social and/or economic standing within society.
Our school faces challenges unique to our community, but not so unique when compared to those of the greater community of our nation. We are a nation divided by belief and opinion, by social background and appearances. There is a disparity of power within social strata as well as between them. Predominately, those on the coasts see themselves as guardians of urbanity and progressive thought, while what people sometimes refer to as the heartland clings to an identity closely aligned with tradition and practicality. You understand the rift I to which I refer; while each clings to the identity of self, any concept of the other becomes just that- the other.
My students contend with this problem every day. While they face discrimination from others, they build their own discriminatory concept of ‘other’ for those that they see as on the opposite side of the fence; authority figures, community leaders, church leaders, politicians.
I am fairly sure that there is some great current thinker who has described this problem more comprehensively or cogently, but I feel strongly enough about these issues that I wanted to put them on paper from someone who lives works daily with what is an often overlooked problem.
I hope that you have a comprehensive and open plan to alleviate this condition. I see it as one of the most basic of problems that our nation, and indeed world, faces.
Again, thanks for your hard work and all the best to you in our shared future.
Yours truly,
Adam P. Burningham

Anyhoo. We'll see how things wash out in the next few years or so.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Adam,
Ameni brother. I shall share this letter with others here on this side of the world who battle with much the same problems and issues. Interestingly, a lovely friend of mine, a Maori woman studying for her PHD did her thesis on growing up with innate and subtle discrimination. She named it "Othering".
I am curious to see how events play out and I wish Obama, and the world, all the positive thoughts I can muster. He shall need them just as we need Wild Places. Be of Good Cheer my friend and Kia kaha.

Anonymous said...

Well said, my boy.
Thanks for putting it in well-chosen words.
May Mr. Obama be given the chance by those around him to see and speak with those in the "hinterlands", many likely subjected to "Othersing", to borrow a term from Robb's friend.

Keep up the good works, and may you, your students and your great family be and feel blessed.


Lost Coyote said...

Well stated, let's hope your cry is heard...

gina said...

Hi Adam,

Found your bloglink from facebook. Love the letter to Pres. Obama. So many issues -it will be interesting to see what happens. Good luck with your school kids- admire that so much -teachers are saints. You know you get automatic sainthood, don't you?