Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Bait Shops, Box Turtles, and Barack Obama

Ed Dunlop and Joker

There was part of Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention that made me reel with gratitude and think of bird dogs and dry Sycamore leaves, bait shops, and box turtles. Barack said:

You know, there’s been a lot of talk in this campaign about what America’s lost – people who tell us that our way of life is being undermined by pernicious changes and dark forces beyond our control. They tell voters there’s a “real America” out there that must be restored. This isn’t an idea that started with Donald Trump. It’s been peddled by politicians for a long time – probably from the start of our Republic.

And it’s got me thinking about the story I told you twelve years ago tonight, about my Kansas grandparents and the things they taught me when I was growing up. They came from the heartland; their ancestors began settling there about 200 years ago. They were Scotch-Irish mostly, farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil rig workers. Hardy, small town folks. Some were Democrats, but a lot of them were Republicans. My grandparents explained that they didn’t like show-offs. They didn’t admire braggarts or bullies. They didn’t respect mean-spiritedness, or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life. Instead, they valued traits like honesty and hard work.

Kindness and courtesy. Humility; responsibility; helping each other out.

That’s what they believed in. True things. Things that last. The things we try to teach our kids.

And what my grandparents understood was that these values weren’t limited to Kansas. They weren’t limited to small towns. These values could travel to Hawaii; even the other side of the world, where my mother would end up working to help poor women get a better life. They knew these values weren’t reserved for one race; they could be passed down to a half-Kenyan grandson, or a half-Asian granddaughter; in fact, they were the same values Michelle’s parents, the descendants of slaves, taught their own kids living in a bungalow on the South Side of Chicago. They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke; a baseball cap or a hijab.

America has changed over the years. But these values my grandparents taught me – they haven’t gone anywhere. They’re as strong as ever; still cherished by people of every party, every race, and every faith. They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots, is what’s in here. That’s what matters. That’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries, and blend it into something uniquely our own. That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here. That’s why our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service. That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.

That’s America. Those bonds of affection; that common creed. We don’t fear the future; we shape it, embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own.

So why was this part of the speech so deeply personal to me?

Simple. Barack and I have parents and grandparents that came from the same place and who had the same values.


This is a picture of Joker and Duke, two pointers that my grandfather had in Augusta, Kansas back in 1937. 

Back then Pointers were a great deal more massive than they are today, as they were bred to work with men riding horses. 

That's my mother between the two dogs.

Another young lady living in this same small Kansas town at the same time was Madelyn Lee Payne, Barack Obama's grandmother, and the woman who raised Barack from the age of 10 onward.

The 1935 census says my Grandfather, Robert E. Dunlop, was the "still man" at the local refinery and he was making $496 a month, which seems to have made him more skilled and better paid than his immediate neighbors. The house they lived in, at 1223 Ohio Street, was worth $4,500 at the time.

Rolla Payne, Madelyn Payne's father, is listed as a "bookkeeper for an oil company" --  the same refinery as the one where my grandfather worked. 

Augusta, Kansas was an oil company refinery townThe Payne's lived at 1136 State Street, only six and half blocks away from my mother and my grandparents. 

Like my grandparents, the Paynes were Methodists. Being devout, they no doubt attended the only Methodist church in town, along with my grandmother.  My grandfather was not much for church attendance!

Bottom line:  It's a small and very interconnected world, and there have always been hunting dogs in it and people with good solid values! 

Today, Barack Obama and I live and work within a few miles of each other.  I was born in Africa, and have traveled over a great deal of the world at one time or another.  My kids are Korean-Americans with the values of their grandmother coursing through their veins.

Really, I think Barack and I should meet, don't you?!

Ed Dunlop and Duke


Giz Rhoads said...

Exactly what the world needs to remember now......our commonality.


Come on, Obamas much more common and Patrick is much more exceptional.