Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hoisting the Beast

Sunday we set off with the Buckfield Brood to get our annual Christmas tree. We don't travel very far. Maybe five miles. It's a happy jaunt just down the road a piece in our Suburban, pictured here. I drive it, because it's a big man's job.

Our house has 16-foot ceilings so we try to get a tree that fits. There's a local tree farm where you can drive in and around the rows of firs until you find the right match. They have little fat ones. Tall scrawny ones. Medium-sized ones with bald spots, the kind your dad would get and hide the dead spot by facing it in the corner.

Then there are our type of trees, way up on the highest point of the tree farm hill. Tall, majestic, pitch-covered trees. Full suckers. Takes me an hour to cut through the base as the other seven stand around and complain about the cold.

When the tree is cut down, it's hoisted up onto the Suburban. Reference the picture here.

I'm the one operating the crane, because it's a big man's job.

So, we drive back to the homestead, the one with the 16-foot ceilings.

And once we're back, the real fun begins. It's a technical process of measuring the distance between the ceiling and the floor. Then, cutting the base of the tree to length.

This takes eight trips back and forth, from house to tree, because measuring from the ceiling to the floor is a straight shot, whereas measuring a tree bows the tape measure and I never get the proper read.

And, of course, the saw I use came with the house, and tends to dull after just one pass. I've included it here for your viewing enjoyment. It's got a cool handle, but the blade is for shit. That's the technical term, I think.

So, after I've cut it to its appropriate length, Harrison, my oldest son (14), Ty, my oldest step-son (11), and Griffin, my youngest son, (5 months) drag the beast into the house. I am at the base, the heaviest part, because that's a big man's job. Harrison, Ty, and Griffin are at the tree top.

We stagger, grunt, groan, push, pull, and wedge the tree through the porch door the width of 16 inches. Then, it's a process of angling it through the main door, which, of course, is at a 90 degree angle to the porch door. This means walking the tree down the length of the porch to clear the porch door, then bending the tree so that it makes it through the main door.

Are you following me? Can you hear me swearing? Griffin is the only one smiling at this point. (See photo for proof)

He just sits there on the couch smiling at everyone. He smiles biggest when I use the F-word. (Oh, relax, like you've never sworn in front of your kids before.)

The tree then must pass through another door before it has made it's final destination: our expansive livingroom.

Here, it sits on the floor in the middle of the room while Harrison, Ty, and I cough up blood. And Griffin smiles, of course.

Meanwhile, Corrine and the girls (Fallon, Alyssa and Gabrielle) have been working on unwinding the tree lights and untangling the cursed metal hooks used in hanging the ornaments.

Once done, the tree goes up. A process of every one of use finding a point along the tree and tilting it upright, so long as it stays in the base. Last year, the base snapped in three places and I had to drop everything and go to the local hardware store to buy a new, industrial strength model.

Like most tree stands, this one has screws that you turn into the base to give the tree stability, but you have to make sure you tighten them equally or the tree will fall. Like it did last year.

Next, bungee cords. There are two eyehook screws screwed into the window sills on either side of the tree. One end of the bungee cord loops through these, the others are looped onto branches deep within the tree. Everyone lets go, and if it doesn't fall over, then I issue a proclamation that anyone touching the tree will be shot where they stand.

We actually got the tree in record time this year, had it hoisted much more quickly than last, and it was decorated by the end of the evening. It's wicked huge. I'll have more pictures later, i just gotta go to Wal-Mart and get them developed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yes, Alice, We're Crazy

So we're a home study away from adopting a child.

I say this with a straight face. With a family this large (eight including Corrine and I) people's natural reaction has been universal.

Us: "We're adopting"
Them: "A human?"
Us: "Yes. Real flesh and blood."
Them: "Are you okay? I mean, I can call someone. A hot line or something."

People naturally tend to believe that only childless couples adopt or foster. You know, Tod and Margo of Falmouth, with the Saab and the time share in Key West?

Isn't that the mythical adoptive couple we've all come to love from the movies? They're well-off, can't have children of their own, so they stop by the local orphanage in the city, on the corner of 12th and Oliver. They peruse the faces of the children as if shopping for a pomeranian, and then there, in the corner, (cue the music) is Jessie, a lovely 5-year-old with blond ringlets and a pink dress who clutches a Raggedy Ann Doll, the only thing that survived the car crash last Christmas Eve that killed her parents.

They embrace her before sweeping her off to New York City to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and a visit to FAO Schwartz.

Then there's Corrine and I, on the other hand (the welcome-back-to-reality hand), with no money, a 1994 POS Suburban, three teenagers, a preteen, a two-year-old and an infant. Our pug scratches his ass on our braided rug whenever company shows up (and you thought animals couldn't have OCD?) and the closest thing to a time share is a trip for pizza to the Buckfield Mall.

We did not go to an adoption agency. We have undergone a month of Saturday classes from DHHS, a home fire inspection, fingerprinting, an application, and offering the names of three friends and BOTH ex-spouses in order for them to fill out a questionnaire about us the length of the Bible.

We have been told that the far majority of these children in state custody have been subjected to some form of physical/emotional/sexual abuse; or witnessed said abuse; or are suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome; or been exposed to drug and alcohol; or are categorized as having some form of special need, such as autism.

So, yes, Alice, you could probably say we're crazy. But, Corrine and I are nothing if not unconventional. I mean, come on. We conceived a child, THEN we bought a house, THEN we conceived another child, and THEN we got married.

We have lived with just one motto: If it makes them think, then it's got to be right

Trust me, we've made loads of loved ones scratch their heads and crinkle their brows, and so far every choice - tough or easy - has turned out to be the right one.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another Sappy Love Song In Which I Steal Some Lyrics and Put Them Next to A Cute Photo of the Love of My Life (consider yourself warned)

Sweet wonderful you,
You make me happy with the things you do,
Oh-oh-ho, can it be so?
This feelin' follows me wherever I go.

I never did believe in miracles.
But I've a feelin' it's time to try.
I never did believe in the ways of magic.
But I'm beginnin' to wonder why.

I never did believe in miracles.
But I've a feelin' it's time to try.
I never did believe in the ways of magic.
But I'm beginnin' to wonder why.

Don't, don't break the spell.
It would be different and you know it will.
You-ooo-hoo, you make lovin' fun,
And I don't have to tell you,
But you're the only one.

You, you make lovin' fun.
(It's all I wanna do.)
You, you make lovin' fun.
(It's all I wanna do.)
You, you make lovin' fun.
(It's all I wanna do.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Posing for Pappy

I have a copy of a photograph of my last remaining grandparent, Avis, whom we refer to as "Nana" and who is now in her early 90s.

It's a photo of her in her 30s and her arm is resting on the hood of a pick up truck in a field of swaying, waist-high grass. A pick up truck that you would see at a collector's show today, all shiny and refurbished and loved to a sparkling sheen.

In the photo she wears a sleeveless dress with a buttoned collar. Her hair - she had unrepentantly thick, dark hair back then - is tossed and pleated by wind. I've always imagined that she is posing for this atop a hill in Farmington or maybe somewhere further north. Taking just enough time out of whatever spine-wrecking work she was doing - potatoes? hay? - to pose for Pappy, her husband. Our now-deceased grandfather.

It looks like a high hill, for there is nothing in the far background but a white-hot, merciless summer sky. That's what I imagine anyway. I picture one of those awful, searing summer days that beat down. And she's wearing a dress to her shins. At least her arms are bare.

And there is Avis, posing for Pappy, and not wanting to because there's work to be done or somewhere to be.

They had a deep, loving relationship that was also acerbic and cynical. Typical of the Depression-era marriages, I would think. My imagination has always projected them in a scratchy, Grapes of Wrath kind of way, a black-and-white film with lots of decrepid buildings, bread lines, and squalor. Babies with dirty faces and chickens running around the front yard.

But also there was deep, abiding love, too, the seemingly mythical kind that comes with having nothing but each other. The kind you only see in movies.

An overly-romantic view, perhaps, but real nonetheless. Because Avis loved - and still loves to this day - Pappy abidingly. That is to say, there was no posing when it came to matters of real affection, even if it meant posing for Pappy on a hill in the middle of July.

You have heard it before somewhere, I'm sure. That poverty made families tighter and closer. That hard times meant you went without just about everything except kinship and deep, fathomless affinity for your loved-ones. This is what Nana knew. She lived it, and because she lived it (with so many others during that time) we all benefited from it later on.

We used to all get together, my family. My brothers and their wives and children; my sister and her family; and beyond them, my aunts and uncles with their broods. And Avis and Howard would be there too, at the table. Not just for the Big Three: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. But for Sundays after church, and birthday parties, too.

They were boisterous, hectic, energy-sapping gatherings, to be sure. The kind that laid you out at the end of the day. The ones in which the adults were gathered in the kitchen, shootin the shit, as we say, while us kids stormed the wooded grounds outside playing whatever.

All of it has been pulled back, though. Like a familial tide: relatives are faded, out to sea somewhere, and I stand on the beach looking out for them. I know they're there. I can see them bobbing on the horizon. Keeping busy to stay afloat.

Pappy is gone. So is an aunt and an uncle. My own siblings are either scattered geographically, or emotionally. We don't even get together for our children's birthdays anymore.

I pulled the picture of Nana for a reason. I do every so often. To just take a look at the woman when she was upright and resilient, not slung into a wheelchair at a nursing home, drooling through her supper.

I'm nothing if not hopelessly romantic, tending toward maudlinness when it comes to assessing my own history. So I used to think I liked looking at it because it was taken so long ago. But I figured out the truth.

Avis is where I began. And where we all began. Avis and Howard, Ina and Ralph, my father's parents. They were the May Poles around which we, their offspring, have danced for so long, holding onto their streamers and not letting go.

Lately, with current happenings, I have (perhaps overdramatically) begun to realize that May has come and gone for us.

I want hope that this is not true. I want it in whatever form it comes.

I want her to pose for Pappy again. Somehow.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Spoiler Alert: This is Our Christmas Card

This is us. This is everyone. This is, from left to right, Ty (the All-In King); Alyssa (the Daunting); Corrine (the Bestest Ever); Gabrielle (the Skull Crusher); Me (the goddamn paterfamilias, of course); Griffin, (the Longbottom); Harrison (the Silent but Deadly); and Fallon (the Shakopee Assassin)

We are one of those blended families, kind of like fruit salad. Or maybe more like ambrosia. And this will be our Christmas card this year. I know, we're dressed more for a Hootie and the Blowfish concert than for Christmas, but this was sort of taken in a hurry at Corrine's folks a week ago. We didn't have time to get into a more festive wardrobe, if you will.

That's it. That's all I have. A picture of the tribe. The gang. The Buckfield mob.

(This was taken with a Minolta Verywide, Series OMG Lens)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I have 47 3x5 cards on a table behind me, on which I have chronicled every scene of my new novel.

You know, the one I shelved because I wanted to be a serious writer so I jumped into doing a play?

Well, the play is shelved, for now.

Instead, I've returned to the novel, of which I have written 298 pages, or 68,281 words.

I put the index cards together in order to straighten myself out with the story. You have to understand, I haven't worked on it for a few months. Shifting gears for me is difficult.

I reread what I've written so far and I think it's a really good story. The writing, meanwhile, needs work. But isn't that the fun of writing?

This morning I pick up at page 298 and start to chisel 10 pages a day out of the story.

Ten a day for a month. That's my goal.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hard Candy

Gabrielle choked on a lollipop last week. I gave it to her. I unwrapped it and handed it to her.

She was sitting between me and Corrine on the couch, after supper. She wasn't jumping around. She wasn't even moving.

There was just this sickening sound and the instant realization that she had swallowed it - stick and all. Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and, keeping pressure, try to peel the back of your tongue away. It makes a peculiar noise from the back of the esophagus. Some people do it to scratch an itchy throat.

Corrine said it first but we both knew she was choking. Gabi seized up and began whimpering and shaking. I grabbed her with my left arm, bent her over and began pounding the middle of her back. She peed through her diaper and all over the couch. I reached into her mouth and she bit down hard on my thumb. I couldn't feel the lollipop.

I resumed pounding. Gabi was crying, a heaving, distressful grunting. Her body was hot in my hand. I was cognizant of the smell of supper; the sound of the television - a blurry noise, no acute details to what was on; there was a white hot heat in my ears; I saw stars at the edges of my eyes.

Corrine grabbed her by the jaw and reached into her mouth. In an instant she had the lollipop out and Gabi screamed. There was a little blood.

I grabbed her and held her and rubbed her back. For my own selfish reasons. And I felt a spike of anger and wanted to kick out the living room window or throw a chair. It was a sudden fury that subsided when I handed her to her mother. Gabi cried and then vomited her supper onto the floor.

For awhile after - a full day even - I had sudden waves of emotion. The full spectrum: numbing fear to anger to guilt and finally to deep, consuming sadness. The chest-ache kind.

It has taken me a week to write about it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This Morning I Am Harold

Harold, you recall, is the boy in the pajamas who wielded a mighty purple crayon. Wherever he decided to go he did so by drawing the destination with his crayon. Need a moon for light to walk by? Harold drew it. Along with the path. And, well, everything else he needed. The sleepless lad was restricted only by his imagination. And a purple writing instrument.

Like Harold, I find myself unable to sleep lately and wish for a crayon. Of any color, frankly. I don't care. Lying awake, filled with ideas and thoughts, I wish I could at least tread the dark hours with Harold's crayon. I would not draw a moon or a path or stars or a house. I would not go on an adventure. I would draw the things that keep me awake, and then - true to a child's form - blot them all out with the long side of the crayon in one spectacular swath.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I've written 22 pages of a play I'm tentatively calling "Night, With Ebon Pinion," which is actually the name of a late 19th century church hymn we used to sing in our church when I was growing up.

The play is not about the song itself, it merely acts as a centrifugal role in the action of the main character, Shep Danvers. That is to say, the song is a force within Shep that powers itself outward and acts upon the play's (Shep's) main action (what he wants).

And isn't that the way things are? We have things (past events, thoughts, damages - perceived and real) within ourselves that we are sure are buried deep enough; issues so embedded in the rock of our memory that they will never see the light of day even with the sharpest of miner's picks. And yet, somehow they manage to surface greater and with more meaning than we ever thought possible.

I'm struggling with this story. Greatly. Because it is a fundamental departure from my first published piece, Surfacing, which is a novel for young adults with a female main character who lives in the future and miles beneath the surface of the earth.

Folks, there isn't a shred of me in that novel, and that was done on purpose by yours truly. I've wanted more than anything in my life to be a writer, and when the time came for me to move to the level of published writer, I chickened out.

Maybe that's not fair. I love Surfacing for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is my firstborn. I love its story and its characters. But it is pure, unadulterated fantasy. The kind of what-if storytelling that you do when you're 10 and have the luxury of idling through your days scheming cool stories about superheroes and space flight and ... well ... unreality.

But I'm nothing if not all about the real. As an adult - since about the age of 22 - my story ideas have sprung from an inner well, as opposed to from something outside of my own experience.

So why then did I write a kid's book at 38 when I've got "serious" stories lined up in my mind like 727s on a tarmac?

Fear. Guilt. Shame.

That's the holy triumvirate of writers. The big three reasons we don't write what we know. Fear of failure. Fear of success at the expense of alienating our loved ones. Guilt about the revelation of "family secrets" (when we know deep down that these are amalgams of people and events, not biographies); shame brought on from the pain of that guilt.

I cannot tell you the number of titles I have started atop a blank page, the numerous paragraphs I have devoted to writing from the heart, only to see them balled up and tossed unceremoniously into a wastebasket.

So back to 'Night'. I will not reveal what the play is "about" because I don't know yet. It's unfinished, you see. And I refuse to tell you what happens, because then I won't write it. I learned that lesson a long time ago.

What I will share - or I thought I was sharing - is my sense of danger every time I sit down to write. I feel like I'm on an emotional precipice as I roll my chair up to my keyboard and look at the computer screen. Kind of like hanging your toes over the edge of the Grand Canyon and peering down. Am I taking a foolish risk by flirting with the edge? And what is this overwhelming desire to just fucking leap? To hell with gravity and the consequences.

I read what I have written (a cardinal sin, but one I am compelled to commit) and I "like" what is there. It's walking a path on its own and its pace and movement is natural - when it moves at all; when it isn't tethered by the aforementioned Big Three, which is frequent.

I guess an analogy would be to use a Jack London scenario. A man is in the rocky wilderness of the southwest, on a stony path. The only path he can take to get to safety. It's a journey that must happen under the cover of darkness of night (of course!!), and along the way he must go uphill (of double course!!). He is stalled by tripping roots and troublesome stones (guilt); he is thwarted by a buffeting wind that threatens to toss him over the edge of the cliff to his right (shame) and even if he succeeds in overcoming those, up ahead he hears a telltale rattle and does not know under which boulder the snake is hidden (fear.)

I like this. I hate it but I love it because I know now that the completion of the play has little to do with being successful and almost everything to do with what writing is supposed to be about.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America