The inauguration of President Barack Obama was a watershed moment in many American lives. To Patty Caraher, a Dominican nun and International Community School founder who taught African-American kids in the segregated schools of Mobile, Ala., in the 1960s andve had images of so many students flashing in front of my face," she said, "and I think: Wow. Their day has come.' "
Watching the crowd gathered on the National Mall on a TV screen in the school's media center yesterday, the septuagenarian took a moment to reflect on what moved her about the day. (Click on the audio icon to hear an excerpt of the interview.)
"You know, I'm not a crier, I rarely cry," she said. "But so often when I'm watching something where Obama is, I tear up. And is it his words, is it what he stands for, is it the dream that he's continuing? It's something that's deep that I don't have the words for."
It's connected, she said, to the memory of her grandmother, who sent her out as a child to sit with the hobos eating on their back porch, telling her God was among them.The lesson stayed with her, as a way to think about community. It's what moved her to help found ICS.And it's what keeps her fighting.
"Because we need rights for all people, you know?" Obama's election is a passing of the baton, she said, but "we still have prejudices with Muslims. We still have prejudices against gays. We still have prejudices in so many areas."
As the Obamas took the stage, Sister Patty teared up again. She had stood alongside African-American students, friends, and neighbors in their struggle for civil rights. She'd been jailed in protest; she'd heard Martin Luther King, Jr. make his famous speeches.
Now, surrounded by students born into a changed America, and others who'd come by way of wars and refugee camps around the world, she felt both how far the world had come, and how far it has to go.