Every year my friend Freida gives me a surprising gift. Far out pop-up books, foodstuffs from the Homeboy Industries-Homegirl Catering and Kitchen, DVD’s of documentaries I might have missed. But this year’s is the best: Of Thee I Sing: A letter to my daughters by Barack Obama.
I have been hearing about this book since its release, but shame on me for not reading it until now. It is my loss. Don’t let it be yours.
Of Thee I Sing, a beautifully, joyfully illustrated book, will drop you to your knees. Each pair of pages proclaims a trait that Obama admires in his girls. “Have I told you that you are creative?” he declares on one page. And on the facing page there is a simple, elegant reference to a great American. Paired with creativity, for example, is Georgia O’Keeffe. The writing is rich and stark, poetic and simply descriptive and delicious, and rolls off your tongue. This book is educational and emotional, said this author who was in tears at its conclusion.
Each of the Americans he portrays is someone about whom your children must know. Each has made a profound contribution to society as we know it today. And each embodies a quality we all want to cultivate in our children.
As you must know, having read many of my blogs, I am a promoter of families and family life. It is the family that has the deepest and most lasting impact on children. And so I see the family meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) as being the ideal vehicle for presenting Of Thee I Sing. Each trait paired with an American is perfect for starting a family discussion, regardless of the age of the people seated at the table. Everyone will be able to relate on his own level.
I once learned that Joe Kennedy, or maybe it was Rose, used to bring an article from the Times to their dinner table each night for discussion among the Kennedy children. While that might be a “high fallutin’ ” approach, the idea is good one. It is through the banter of meal times that children absorb their parents’ beliefs and values. It is during family meal conversations, when each member has the floor, that children feel their opinions and ideas matter.
In the coming year, in addition to making family meals happen, why not make the most of them? Let Of Thee I Sing be the icing on your cake.