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Heroism wasn't good enough for my mother.

Heroism wasn't good enough for my mother.

It always seems to me that a "hero" does what most others can't – either because of ability or opportunity or circumstance. And make no mistake, my mom accomplished the extraordinary in the face of the unthinkable. But she inspired that same courage in everyone she touched; she had no use for the idea that "others can't."

Watching her, an immigrant who'd fled Nazi Germany at 16, I learned the beauty of the American Dream, freedom of conscience, and the power of democracy.

She epitomized unconditional love as she held down a full time job without sacrificing anything in her commitment to my brother Jeff and me – even as he struggled for decades with mental illness.

As one of not too many women of her generation to work as a research librarian, my mother knew not only the value of hard work, but the importance of having your facts straight and your ideas clear. She taught me how our institutions should work for people, not vice versa. And more importantly, she taught me why.

But most of all, my mother taught me that leaving the fight for a better world to "heroes" is a cop out. That fight belongs to all of us, and joining it isn't a choice. It's a duty and privilege for everyone.

It's been nearly eight years since my mother died. But I see her all the time, in everything that matters: in my family, my work, and my community; in the diversity of this country and in the faces of everyone who comes here for a better life; in the strength of the people who work three jobs, but are never too tired to help out.

I see her in the mothers who blaze trails and inspire and who always have love to give, today and every day.

Happy Mother's Day.


Posted on May 12, 2019.

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