Monday, February 11, 2008

Waiting to hear Bararck Obama

Today there is excitement outside my office building. It is the day before Maryland's primary election and Barack Obama is scheduled to speak in the Arena- opposite my building. Undaunted by the biting cold February wind, attendees - old and young, stand in lines that snake around for 2 blocks.

It's the end of my work day. I go outside hoping to join the line, but it is too long and too cold so I move away heading for the parking garage. At the corner opposite the arena, I see two men talking. One of them is well dressed and pointing towards the arena. His face and mannerisms are familiar, so I assume I may have met him at one of the many meetings that I attend.

I pass by them, idly wondering where I had seen him, when something clicks in my mind.

I turn back and call out a name. The owner of the name turns, looks surprised then smiles in recognition. He certainly looks different without the Division of Correction issued clothing that he wore for 39 years.
We talk. He introduces his companion telling him about the family literacy program that I initiated in the prison where he had been incarcerated, and his participation. He speaks highly of the program and says he is now a motivational speaker who wants to go to juvenile institutions to do similar programs. Today he is waiting for someone with whom he will go hear Obama speak.

He hands me his business card saying he is willing to help me with family literacy programs in any of the prisons. The card reads, Writer/Consultant/ Motivational Speaker. On the back it lists his fees $250.00 and $500.00 depending on the size of his audience. On the front are the words, "The strength of the effort is the measure of the results. Never give up & never give in"

I bid them goodbye,wish him good luck, certain he will be okay. In prison, he had received an education, written a book, was editor of the prison newsletter, and was one of those persons who was always respectful and worked very hard to make the family literacy program succeed.

He never gave up on his legal attempts to get back into the courts, and it eventually paid off when after 39 years, the judge released him. As I went towards the garage, my mind's eye flashed to the Baltimore Sun article and photograph of him holding the hands of his grandchildren as he walked out into the street from the courthouse- a free man.

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