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Chapter 5: It's a new day...or, so the choir sung

Martin Tull - Bio “It’s a new day.”  Or, so the choir sung.

It was just after midnight, in the early morning hours of January 20th, 2009 and I stood in the grand hall of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.  The 2009 Green Inaugural Ball had been underway for several hours with thousands of swirling guests clinking glasses of wine, chomping on little bits of food on toast, and trying not to step on the long flowing ball gowns.  Celebrities were lining up outside to walk in on the “Green Carpet” where a flock of paparazzi were assembled to ask them why they cared about the environment, and what sort of plug-in hybrid they drove.  To say the least, it was a quite a scene.

Now when I said earlier that the choir sang, I really meant it.  Members of the Agape Choir had flown from California to D.C. and were singing backup for will.i.am, a dynamic, and politically charged lyricist and frontman for the Black Eyed Peas.  As they sang “it’s a new day, a new day,” I found myself thinking deeply about those words, and about all of the passion and hope that was behind them.  The choir on stage was not the only group talking about how the world would change after the presidential inauguration.  For weeks, I had been hearing about how things were about to be very different.  As we move into the first few weeks of the new presidency, countless articles have attempted to quantify the differences between President Obama and past leaders, many of the articles bringing bold distinctions to light.  But even with all of the talk about the “new day” that was dawning in America, I couldn’t help but think back to some of the comments in the previous threads of this online dialogue.  

When I sat down to write about the role of the arts in a time of change, and the power of the stories that we tell, this image of a “new day” was etched deeply into my consciousness.  But so were the words of Puanani Burgess when she wrote that we are taught that “leadership rests not in one man or one woman, but in all of us.”  We are in a time where the promise of a new national leader is being discussed daily, but what if Puanani is correct, that there is a form of leadership that emerges not from the top down, but from the bottom up?   And of course, it is never really a simple choice between two opposite ends of the spectrum…top down or bottom up.  It is a blend of both that is being called for.  As Milenko Matanovic suggests, “Artists understand tensions.  They define success in terms of steps rather than a finished journey.  They know that choosing between being a realist or idealist is not an option, that both modalities are required at all times.” 

That careful balance, holding the tension, wrestling with paradox, may be just the right medicine for a community ready to look to one man for leadership and inspiration.  The artist helps us to see the old in the new, and the child in the seasoned politician.  Both are always there, but it takes a creative touch to uncover the subtler dimensions.  We should not wait for the media to reveal the subtleties of our humanity.  If we did, we might be waiting for a very long time.

So as the choir sings, “it’s a new day,” they may be right.  But, what we desperately need is not just a change of helmsman at the ship of state, but a new dawn of understanding that each of us need to stand at the helm.  We are asked for a deep commitment, an internal motivation to stretch and grow, and to foster a perspective that is always broadening rather than narrowing into dualism.  If we have learned one thing from the rising of the sun, it may be the knowledge that it also sets.  That can be a reminder of the natural cycles within which we reveal ourselves on society’s stage, and it can suggest that with all that is new, the old baggage is never too far behind.

As we move forward in this new year, I hope we can boldly sing, “it’s a new day,” and I hope that it means something very personal to us.  It is a new day in which the world is changing, and so are we.  There is great joy in the open space of the early morning light, and we should take the time to soak it in, recharge our batteries, and then step back into the world, stepping shoulder to shoulder with those already leading the way.  The challenges that we face collectively require all hands on deck and when we stand together we get the best of both worlds.  There is the power of the solo voice, and joined with others, we get the sound of something quite powerful.  It is the sound of the choir, in joyful unison, recharging our spirits, and hopefully, inspiring those around us as well. 


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but it's sooooo much easier if we just put all of our faith in one person to solve all of our problems!!

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