I’m teaching a class this semester on political rhetoric and communication. As of Saturday afternoon, my syllabus was shattered into pieces as I sat watching the news headlines update on my laptop. Numbers and names of dead and wounded slowly were updated as reporters scrambled to discover some sort of truth in the murky swamp of insanity and hate.

As I listened to President Obama attempt to comfort a confused and grieving nation, I was touched by his plea to live up to the vision of America that was possessed by a young child.

Imagine, imagine here for a moment, a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just beginning to glimpse that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.  She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism, vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

So, today, rather than send you back into the rather solitary pursuit of reading, today I would like to ask you to put down your book and hug your kid or your spouse or your partner or your dog or the nice neighbor lady who gives you extra tomatoes from her garden in the summer and do something that epitomizes your hope for the future.

Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. ‘I hope you help those in need,’ read one. ‘I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.’

I hope you jump in rain puddles, or make snow angels, or get a nice tan today. I hope you find peace and joy. I hope for a brighter tomorrow, for me and for Congresswoman Giffords, for Christina’s parents and for you.


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.