I was having a conversation with an adult I know recently about politics and Facebook. They were saying how they could not post their politics on Facebook because their parents would make it miserable for them.
Tonight, I had dinner with friends and our friends were talking about how their parents had, as they had gotten older, grown more and more intractable in their politics to the point where it was something that it was simply not discussed anymore.
Last week, I stayed up until 12:30 am talking with my mother and father about race, politics and how that played out in education. Every night this week, either via text or phone, my mother and I discussed the keynote speeches of the DNC – what we were pleased with, what frustrated us, etc…. We didn’t agree on everything, but we both enjoyed the conversation.
So much of who I am is because of the lessons I’ve learned from my parents. I say this in almost every speech I give, but I am the son of a teacher and a labor lawyer. I was raised with a deep belief in what communities of caring people can do when they work together. I was raised with a belief that we had to look out for working people. There’s a somewhat embarrassing story from when I was two years old, and I apparently yelled at some poor guy in a supermarket because he was buying grapes while Cesar Chavez was starving. I like to tell my parents now that they are at fault for the fact that I’m not rich, because they raised me with a deep belief in a life of service. And while my father likes to reply, “I wish you hadn’t listened quite that well,” I know that he’s incredibly proud of what we have done at SLA.
I don’t ever take for granted the lessons I’ve learned from my parents. And the older I get, the more I find their mannerisms in the things I do and say. When I think about the path I took to believe what I believe, I don’t think I just came to a similar path as my parents without question. I, like many folks, tried on various ideas and beliefs as I grew up on my path to what I hope is a still-evolving worldview. But I was able to take that journey with my parents, not in spite of them or in straight opposition to them. That’s a pretty amazing gift they were able to give me, I think.
We all learn lessons from our parents. Some things we learn because we see things we do not want to emulate. Some things we learn because we things we admire. I consider myself incredibly lucky in that my parents presented a vision of the world that I could believe in, but they gave me the space to come to it myself, own it for myself and then make it my own. In the end, my parents are still my first and best teachers.