Travel begins with intention.
Intention is the spark that enkindles transformation.
Long before crossing the horizon to a arrive at a new destination an entire journey can be completed and a life transformed.
I often try to observe in myself when a particular trip really "begins." It is not when I arrive or when I board the plane although those are defining moments. For simplicity's sake I remind myself that a trip has begun the moment I lock my front door behind me. At that point I begin to sense that I am carried along by a different dynamic and operate under a more pragmatic and permeable set of rules that are designed to accommodate the predictable chaos of transit.
Knowing that this major trip to South Africa
was only days away my wife and I chose to celebrate the Obama inauguration with those who had taken the Freedom Train to San Francisco
on Dr Martin Luther King
's birthday and sit outdoors long before sunrise at the Civic Center in San Francisco for the community inauguration celebration.
Approaching this trek to Africa the inauguration gave me time to reflect again on "price and the promise of citizenship." The uncertainty of physical travel - especially with a disability - gave a different shade of meaning to President Obama's phrase "the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny" and reminded me again of the pilgrimage theme with its emphasis on the universality of being human together.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.
These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.
What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
As I listened to Obama's inaugural address
crescendo with these words I was brought back to the many times I have insisted that the Principles of Universal Design
- those world-transforming insights of disability culture - are the antidote to grudging acceptance of the necessary legal protections of inclusion. As a tool for designing world culture Universal Design
still appears "new" to some but, at its core, it embodies the best of what all societies strive for.
I previously wrote that I am not traveling with an evangelical sense and hubris. Rather, after a long era of national shame, Obama's words capture something of the spirit of this trip:
But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
To those who may wonder why "the work of remaking America" would necessarily include a white fundi's
journey to South Africa I suggest starting from the very pragmatic observation that at times "that precious gift
, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness" has been lived more fully outside the United States
As I travel I seek to recover and learn from "our better history" wherever it is lived.
Travel -- Inclusive Travel -- is a part of the work of remaking America as a gracious host and Americans as respectful world citizens. We know that a commerce of both goods and ideas sustains us. We know that diversity openly encountered and freely respected contributes to the commerce of both goods and ideas that sustains us "For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness." Difference, justly protected, enables strength. When that difference literally includes the physical weakness of someone aging with quadriplegia as I am yet moving out to encounter points of promise around the world then even simple personal encounters build the strength of nations