The Great Mother

reflecting on life: stories, wisdom, inspiration, aggravation

Obama’s Letter to His Daughters January 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 4:34 pm

A lovely message of a father’s hopes and dreams for his two girls.  (from

Dear Malia and Sasha, 

I know that you’ve both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn’t have let you have. But I also know that it hasn’t always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn’t make up for all the time we’ve been apart. I know how much I’ve missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey. 

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me-about how I’d make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn’t seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn’t count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that’s why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation. 

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential-schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college-even if their parents aren’t rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity. 

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you’ll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other. 

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country-but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free-that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility. 

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something. 

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better-and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It’s a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be. 

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you’ve had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much-although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential. 

These are the things I want for you-to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That’s why I’ve taken our family on this great adventure. 

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House. 

Love, Dad


My Wise Women Friends January 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 6:02 pm

I find myself drawn to certain women in their mid-40s and up.  These are women who pay attention to their lives, who believe they possess an innate wisdom about them to be cultivated and heard, who are more concerned about depth of life and relationships than keeping up appearances for the outside world.  I want to be like these women.  It excites me to think of what the next 15 or 20 years will bring as I learn these practices of cultivation and listening.  While I am learning the lessons that come from mothering in the early years, I also notice the lessons they continue to learn from mothering older children or mothering from an empty nest.  I am consistently inspired by the Wendys and Terrys and Lyndas and Susans and Cassies that dance through my life.

Along those lines, I am reading Sue Monk Kidd’s book When the Heart Waits right now.  Quotes will surely find their way on here at some point.  Mothering is often a waiting place for me because of the conflicted callings I feel on my life.  We’re obviously in the waiting place of birthing a new little one, but I mean the waiting place of when vocational callings will begin to reemerge for me.  Rather than anxiously planning for the next big thing, how can I be still and present in this moment?  How, as Kidd begins in her book, can I view this time as one of a sacred chrysalis?  For what purpose am I being prepared or changed or grown?  Should I attempt to extricate myself from this place of growth and safety too soon, I would be malformed and unready for flight.

Then, during the boy’s nap today, I came across a new blog: A Circle of Quiet.  I was looking over a list of at least two dozen and tried hard to avoid this one.  I was looking for something light or fun or crafty or silly.  I don’t know.  But I was drawn back to the name again and again, and wouldn’t you know it’s a wise woman to admire.  I’ve just begun to read through her posts, but her favorite quotes (and use of great hymns during Advent) inspired me to write about these women who inspire me.  Here are a few of her choices:


Where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet and good tilled earth. ~Bilbo Baggins

“In the tempestuous ocean of time and toil, there are islands of stillness where we may enter a harbor and reclaim our dignity.” ~ Abraham Joseph Heschel

Thank you, wise women.  Thank you for the hope and energy you bring to my life.  Thank you for the mothering ways you teach me.  Thank you for the ways you are present to yourselves and to each other.