August 25, 2010
DALE F. writes:
The other day, a friend sent me a link to a piece by Will Hutton, a writer for the UK Guardian, contemplating mostly with satisfaction the civilizational accomplishments of his (and my) “baby boom” generation.
This morning I saw this article:
The first school in the D.C. area named after the current president opens Monday morning as the school year begins in Prince George’s County.
Barack Obama Elementary School opens its doors in Upper Marlboro, Md., for the first time Monday. The school is being touted as being an environmentally friendly “green” school. There have been other schools named after President Obama in the country, but this will be a first in his own backyard in the D.C. region.
When I was in first grade, the name of the elementary school I attended (five blocks from my home) was changed from Lilly Elementary School to Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary (it’s still there on Lilly Street in Garden Grove). The Lilly family had owned the farm that was subdivided after the war and turned into starter homes and a school. I remember hearing at the time of the name change that some people felt that “Lilly” was insufficiently masculine-I don’t know if that really had anything to do with the change. Certainly Eisenhower was a popular war hero and president among the mostly Midwesterners who were transforming Orange County into a place of suburban homes rather than of orange groves and strawberry fields.
If my childhood memory is correct, the picture of Ike that they put in the school office after the name change was of the president in his general’s uniform, not in a suit. In any case, I feel fortunate to have been a child at a time when an elementary school was named for a quiet man of great accomplishment who unquestionably loved his country and its traditions.
I grew up on a street where every home was owned by a married couple with children (with one exception, a couple childless due-we were told-to natural infertility). I never heard the word “divorce” until I was in high school, and that’s the first time I met kids whose parents had actually divorced. Though my home life was far from idyllic, my mother was always there when I got home from school, and my father was always there on nights and weekends after long working hours, and I never doubted that would always be true.
That’s what I thought of when I read Will Hutton contrasting his “more urgent, more noble, and more sensuously alive” world with his parents’ “worthy but unexciting lives.”
Worthy and unexciting is sounding pretty good right now.