Hearing Voices

June 1999

I moved to Chicago to be closer to my family and to begin service as a member of City Year Chicago. I had just graduated from Reed College. I was civic minded, passionate about public education, and hoping to help change a small part of the world and to inspire youth through my work as a community volunteer. 

During my orientation week, my diverse group of corps members and I rode the clamoring red line El train deep into the south side of Chicago. We made it to our stop, unloaded, and walked a few blocks to a local public library. The twenty of us, representing all colors, education levels, experiences, and socio-economic statuses, gathered in an open space of the library and waited.

“Who are we waiting for?” one corps member asked.

“Barack Obama,” a voice answered.


This young Illinois State Senator named Barack Obama spent 45 minutes speaking to our small group about the importance of community service. He spoke about how we, as a group of diverse young people,  can help shape the world by serving as inspiring role models and agents of change in our local communities. I remember walking out of that library believing I could make a difference in my community. I felt inspired. I liked this new voice that I had heard.

November 4, 2008

My family and I had the television on throughout the evening. We ate dinner, made crafts, and looked at books all against the backdrop of voices announcing election updates. While my 3-year-old daughter was walking around the living room with a stuffed pink puppy on a purple leash, she turned to me, pointed to the television and asked, “Did she say Hope, Mama?”

“No, ” I said. “She said Obama.”

“Hmm…it sounds like Hope-Mama!”

November 5, 2008

On the drive to my daughter’s preschool, the radio was tuned to NPR. They were playing bits and pieces of Obama’s victory speech. After a few seconds of listening, my half-Filipino daughter announced,”Mama. It’s Obama again! I like his voice.”

A new voice has spoken.  A new voice has been heard.


2 responses to “Hearing Voices

  1. What you’ve written today brings another set of tears to my eyes. This, indeed, is Hope, Mama.

  2. I honestly just got the chills reading that. I never knew you got to meet him before? That’s amazing! I am so excited about the prospects for our country, and this just sums it up…so much hope for what the future holds!

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