Sunday, August 31, 2008

Berry Gordy, MLK Jr., Obama and My Husband, Candidate

As some of you know, my husband Gary Pritchard is running for State Senate in California. Gary is a teacher and a father and my best friend.

We watched a recording of the Obama speech Thursday night since he taught late and had some work to do at school. Gary is currently teaching SEVEN classes at two different schools (UC Irvine and Cerritos College) and has been quite overwhelmed with the work.

Gary still walked this weekend though and spoke at the Laguna Woods Democratic Club. He started with talking about his experience on Thursday and told me how he started to cry during his talk.

Now Gary is not a very weepy man. He's got no issues with men crying, I just know he doesn't often. I've only witnessed him cry twice in the more than eleven years I've known him and that was when a high school friend had taken his own life and at the birth of our daughter, Charlotte.

So when he told me he had cried today in a room full of elderly Democrats I was a bit taken aback. I asked him why?

Gary told me he wanted to talk a bit about what Thursday meant to him and how he had been immersed in the sixties the entire day because he is teaching a History of Rock class at UCI, Cerritos and a Jazz Improv class at Cerritos.

He started the day talking about black music in the sixties and the success of Berry Gordy. (Mind you, I asked him to write this diary himself and he's refused). Berry Gordy was the founder of the Motown record label and the reason why we have such a rich history of African American artists...
His gift for identifying and bringing together musical talent, along with the careful management of his artists' public image, made Motown initially a major national and then international success. Over the next decade, he signed such artists as Mary Wells, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Commodores, The Velvelettes, Martha & the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5.


(this is not the video by the way, just something I found on Youtube).

Gary said he spoke of Gordy in the context of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream Speech" and how Gordy epitomized the American Dream in his success. Gary also showed a video of Martin Luther King's funeral.

It was then at his Jazz Improvisation class that his students learned to play the blues. Gary is an accomplished musician and loves teaching jazz improv. It's one of his favorite forms of music as well as Blues and still plays gigs often more for the chance to play with friends than to make extra money.

Now there is a stronger connection between Gordy and MLK Jr. It's that Berry Gordy recorded King's speeches and their ties had a greater implication upon the Civil Rights Movement.
Amongst this turmoil, Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr rose to prominence as the leader of the movement. In 1963, following riots in Birmingham, Alabama, King led 125,000 protestors through Detroit on ‘The Great March for Freedom’. He delivered his famous 'I have a Dream' speech, which mobilised the civil rights struggle into an impassioned plea for freedom.

Recording of Martin Luther King Jr's Detroit Speech, 1963. Image Courtesy of Motown Records Archive.


Recording of Martin Luther King Jr's Detroit Speech, 1963. Image Courtesy of Motown Records Archive. (click image for larger version)

The ongoing political upheaval led to the Civil Rights Act, 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, 1965, granting most of the demands, in theory at least, and contemporary popular music began to reflect the changing times.

Previously, Motown had generally avoided ‘issue’ tracks, but in the changing political climate Stevie Wonder’s ‘Down to Earth’ (1966) began a trend for ‘message’ songs. Edwin Starr’s 'War', Marvin Gaye’s 'What’s Going On?’ followed, along with the Supremes' 'Love Child' which became number one in the U.S in 1968, and is their best selling single to date.
Amazing to me the connections that can be drawn by studying rock history. So think that Gary was talk about all of this all day Thursday to come home and witness history in the making, I can understand why he was moved. I was moved as well, with millions of others, I know we were not the only ones.

But it just wasn't the speech but what the moment meant in our history. What it meant that so many people had come together to celebrate the nomination of a brilliant man, father and husband who just happens to be of African descent.
America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices. And Democrats, as well as Republicans, will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past, for part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose, and that's what we have to restore.


You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

But this, too, is part of America's promise, the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer, and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values.

And that's to be expected, because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters.

New York Times
I know Gary was blown away by Obama's speech. It really spoke to us as residents of a very Red County and to Gary's campaign to run as a moderate. I understand why Gary wouldn't want to write about this experience but I wanted to because I'm a blogger. It's what I do.

Gary started this race by my urging him and the desire to put a "D" on the ballot but as our State's budget is held hostage by a very few Republicans and their pledge to no new taxes, we see that extreme partisan politics can be far more destructive than helpful. Republicans in California have not given their own budget and how they would cut 15 billion dollars out of the 100 billion dollar budget. No risk on their part and that is what this race is about.

Republicans in the OC don't have to budge because their seats are considered safe (So much so that local Republican bloggers refer to Gary's opponent as "Senator Elect"). Obama speaks directly to these divides that happen locally and nationally and they keep us from progressing.

Just two more State Senators in California that are Democrats and we could possibly have a budget by now. Just two.

So, I keep writing about Gary's race and I keep asking for support because I believe in him. He's compassionate and smart, he's pragmatic and passionate and he's one of the best candidates we have in local races.

Can you help Gary? Please don't hold it against him that he will not come here to blog, know that he walks every weekend, he meets groups, works hard and has learned a great deal about the issues so far.

If you want to learn more, here is Gary's biography on his website. Both Gary and I never met one of our parents and we are both products of public education. It's amazing how much I have in common with my husband and how blessed I am to say he is my best friend and the father of my child. I've learned more about him in the last few months, that happens when you've known someone so long. It's another reason why Barack Obama's story touches us in a personal way. I was the first in my immediate family on my Mother's side to graduate from College (My grandparents were both born in Italy and are immigrants to America) and Gary's mother was a Native American, he too was one of the first in his family to go to College. Not only College though, he got his Ph.D. in 2006.

Okay, enough gushing, here is what he says about himself.
Who I am

When I decided to run for office, I knew that I would need a biography. I also knew that I didn’t want it written by someone other than myself. I felt strongly that I would be the best person to tell you who I am while summing up the whole of my life experiences in one page.

I can count the times that I’ve bothered reading a political biography on one hand. The better ones I read came across as disingenuous while the worst were like pharmaceutical ads on TV. I’m hoping for somewhere in between phony and slick.

The Basics

I’m a 37 year old California native who was born in the Central Valley town of Bakersfield and raised near the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park.

I now live in Aliso Viejo with Heather my supportive spouse of 10 years and Charlotte our exuberant five year old daughter..

I am a dedicated educator in the public school system. I completed college in Southern California where I attended Chapman University, the Claremont Graduate School, UCLA, and UCI. I hold a Ph.D. in the Social Sciences and am a tenured professor in the Fine Arts and Communication Division of Cerritos College where I have taught since 1999. In the summer, I am also a lecturer at UCI.

As a tested leader in the California Community College system, I have served as a department chair, sat on curriculum and program review committees, co-authored grants for the National Endowment of the Humanities and federal vocational education programs. I have chaired tenure committees, reviewed textbooks, authored new curriculum including distance education courses, and have participated in a variety of local and national conferences and symposia.

As your senator, I will follow the same principles that made me an effective leader in education. I will work hard to make sure the people who need the most help get it. I will never waste time and resources with murky issues that advance the interests of the few over that of the average citizen.

I will be an empathetic leader dedicated to improving the quality of education, expanding healthcare to include more of California’s children, and maintaining our parks, oceans, and natural resources. I am for fiscal responsibility but not at the cost of cutting programs necessary for the health and well-being of all Californians.

I will legislate on behalf of those among us who want our schools to remain well-equipped and adequately staffed, who want the air we breathe and water we drink protected and maintained, who want our state’s public parks and beaches to remain open, who agree that healthcare isn’t a privilege for a few but the right of all. In short, I represent Californians who think about the possibilities our state offers rather than its limitations.

More About Me and My Reasons for Running

If you’re reading this, you are a deeply concerned citizen who values your vote as much as I do or you are about to write a hit piece on me. Maybe both.

This section is what I wrote when I asked myself why I care about winning this seat as much as I do and what it is I hope to accomplish while in office. If you want to skip ahead, then the short answer to this is because I disagree with cutting
funding for public education and believe this is tantamount to bankrupting our state.

If you think education had already failed many of our kids, think LAUSD graduation rates, try thinking about the future of our state with our ‘good’ schools now facing dramatic cuts to programs and teaching staff. Having taught in the Los Angeles area for over a decade, I know first hand what Orange County residents are about to get a taste of. Anyone for crowded classrooms, overwhelmed administrators, frustrated teachers, and most importantly disappointed kids who perhaps for the first time will know what their government actually thinks of them.

Heather (my lovely spouse) and I come from working class backgrounds and are the first members of our families to go to college. Heather’s is second generation Sicilian-American and her father was born and raised in Missouri. She was born in Queens, New York and raised in Huntington Beach, California. My mother was a Native American/Mexican homemaker from the Fort Mojave Tribe and my father a blue collar worker whose family migrated west from Oklahoma. Were just the typical Italian-Indian-Irish-English-American family.

My father and mother were both teenagers when I was born. Three years later my mother’s life would come to a tragic end and my father would be a single parent. He knew he had to take whatever jobs he could to support us. Eventually, my father found work as an independent truck-driver and was absent during most of my early childhood. My grandparents agreed to help my father create a stable home for me surrounded by a loving extended family.

As a result of having spent so much time with my grandparents, I grew up having a great deal of respect and fascination for the Americans who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. I listened earnestly to the stories of my grandparents and what kind of sacrifices were made so that there was food on the table and clothes on their backs. Education was what they sacrificed to survive during hard times and consequently became what they stressed the most in my life. They told me that if I did well in school, I would have opportunities they never did.

For them, education was more than the self-centered pursuit of acquiring knowledge or the arousing intellectual curiosity, the defining quality of an educated person was their citizenship. Not simply a product of living in the United States but something that they felt was earned by actions. When my progress reports came home they would first check my citizenship grade. For them, that was the most important element in my early education. It wasn’t until I took my first social studies course that I discovered what my grandparents taught me was abiding faith in FDR’s ideas of civic responsibility.

Education was decidedly different for me than it was for my mother and father. I attended public school from kindergarten through college and was always encouraged by teachers to live up to my potential. The lessons of civic responsibility that my grandparents valued resonated throughout my life.

Both my parents had difficulties in school. My mother was from the reservation while my father suffered profound hearing loss as a child. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the school system was not especially sensitive to the struggles of Native Americans or to the needs of hearing impaired children.

In the case of my father, the classroom was a difficult place for him to spend his days. Having to wear bulky hearing aids exacerbated his feelings of low self-esteem which made it difficult for him to ask for help. He didn’t want to stick out any more than he already did. What my dad learned was primarily survival skills so that he would not stick out in a hearing world. On his own, he learned to read people’s lips quite well while his verbal and written language skills to this day remain rudimentary.

While in school, my teachers stressed that a good education would open doors which otherwise might be closed. They showed me to how think critically about the choices I make. They impressed upon me the importance of thinking about possible outcomes alongside the sacrifices that would need to be made. In doing so, they taught me to see my life in terms of balancing possibilities with sacrifices. This was radical thinking in the Pritchard household where sacrifices always outweighed possibilities for both father and grandparents. I am proud to say that these life skills helped form the person I am today. I think every student in California should have the opportunities that a great public education provides. It is shameful that our legislators have let us and our children down.

Gary and Charlotte...




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