When we first met to plan this event I cried. I pretended I wasn’t crying, of course -- I didn’t want my fellow planners to worry about my emotional health and besides, no revolution was ever won by crybabies. But it was two weeks after the election, and like a lot of you I was bewildered and worried.
I cried out of appreciation for my fellow planners -- intelligent, irreverent, wonderful women who regularly inspire me with their commitment to their communities. I cried out of grief and embarrassment that 90% of the people I’m related to happily voted for a regressive, sexist, anti-intellectual bigot. I cried out of worry -- for vulnerable communities and individuals, for the alarming turn this country is taking. And most of all I cried from a weird sudden gratitude. Gratitude for books, and ideas, and an education -- all of which saved me from willful ignorance and a constrained life.
Every good thing that has ever happened in my life has happened because of words. Because of ideas. Because of books, and questions, truth, and imagination. Words have given me my livelihood. Words have given me my community, my friends, my husband. Words have made me who I am.
I’m here today because I believe in words, in the power of an informed people, in the freedom of the press, which we will be needing now more than ever before. And I believe in the goodness of all of you. I believe in your passion and your devotion and your strength. Let’s keep reading, and writing, and talking to one another, and showing up. Ideas are real, they’re contagious, they spread just about as fast as the flu affecting at least half of this room. Let’s spread an infection of supporting our news organizations, our students, our teachers, our libraries, our bookstores. Let’s make a beautiful miasma of learning, and poetry, and intellectualism, of free thought and creative diligence. Let’s all catch each other’s courage and belief in not only one another but all good people across this vast nation. And let’s find healing in books, in poetry, in responsible journalism, and in the words of our contemporaries and all the great thinkers and revolutionaries who have come before.