Campaign trail affirmations
I got started on the campaign trail in Cleveland Heights in early October. While knocking on doors is not my favorite activity, it is my civic duty. Despite my hesitation, something sweet kept happening, which made those moments of discomfort worthwhile. I encountered parents of children who went to school with my kids back in the 1980s and 90s at Boulevard, Monticello and Heights.
I’ve loved these heartfelt reunions, rich with authentic interest in one another’s families, and with unspoken trust and delight that we are once again working for the same cause. We live in a web of relationships—some daily, some occasional—but those connections make us whole. They make life rich, and make the places we live more than shelter.
There is something very special about the connections I made with other parents during my kids’ school years—strangers with whom I shared the same anxious hope that our school community would do right by our children. It is a remarkable bond. One that lasts long after the school years are over. The children became our children. And our schools gave me the chance to forge connections with people beyond my usual circle of like-minded friends. Our public school involvement made us a diverse and cohesive community, with high hopes for one another’s children. It nurtured our commitment to the common good.
I moved to Cleveland Heights in 1979 with the explicit goal of joining an integrated community that would expand my world, and would provide our children with opportunities that would break old barriers. The best way to pursue my commitment to justice was to become part of a community that made equity a goal of daily life.
Of all things, the campaign trail gave me more than enough evidence that my aspirations for moving to Cleveland Heights so long ago have been realized.
As my compatriots provided updates on their children, I learned that the six-year-old boy whose coloring skills impressed me 20 years ago graduated from Columbia University, and is now at Harvard. The friendly wrestler completed Morehouse and is now at the University of Chicago. Other kids are now parents, business owners, teachers, guidance counselors, physical therapists, nurses, international development entrepreneurs, women’s health advocates, and aspiring professors.
Learning about the children, who are now approaching their 30s, provided that invaluable long view that is so rare and so informative. Judging by these young adults, I’d say our future is in good hands. Our community pulled together to give this upcoming generation the support, encouragement, and educational opportunity they needed and deserved.
I couldn’t be more proud of them and of us.
Susie Kaeser is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, former director of Reaching Heights, and serves on the national board of Parents for Public Schools.