I Am Better Off Today Than Four Years Ago

FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2012, photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Some
FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2012, photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Some black clergy, seeing no good choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports gay marriage, are telling their flocks to stay home on Election Day _ a message that could be worrisome in what is expected to be a tight race. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Last Thursday, I met President Barack Obama in person. Not just a handshake in a crowd, I was personally introduced, shook hands, received a hug, and exchanged a few words with the president of the United States. It was a moment I will never forget.

I feel like it is time to change the title of my personal blog from "Sorting It All Out" to "A Series of Fortunate Events." Yesterday I tried to blog about the experience but kept hitting a wall, unable to explain the impact on my life. I was trying to be political in my statements, but that is not me. I am not a political person. I vote. I educate myself about the issues. I am supportive of the candidates I believe in. But I am not passionate about politics. How then did this meeting with the leader of our nation come to be?

To answer that I have to answer another question that is on everyone's mind these days. Am I better off today than I was four years ago? You bet I am and that fact has nothing to do with who was president or the economy. Four years ago, the fall of 2008, I was a teacher doing my best at my job. By the summer of 2009, when I began this blog, I was a teacher with questions. From that moment until the moment I met President Obama, I lived my life in a way that opened doors, created opportunities, and filled me with joy and fulfillment unlike any I have ever experienced before. You see, it is not up to our government to make us happy or create our success. That ability lies within each of us. There is more to life than material comforts and conveniences. Money and power cannot actually buy what we all need at our core.

I found the explanation for my personal success in a book written by another inspirational person I have had the pleasure of meeting, as a direct result of the same series of events that led me to the president. Educational leader, Angela Maiers, has a new book Classroom Habitudes, explaining seven habits and attitudes that are critical to learning and success. They are written for the classroom, but apply to life in general. As I read the book, I realized that each has played a role in creating the success and opportunity that has played out in my life over the past four years: imagination, curiosity, self-awareness, perseverance, courage, adaptability, and, perhaps most importantly, passion.

As a teacher of small children, I love the message President Obama delivers to students in his annual back to school speeches. He tells them that they are in charge of their own destiny. He urges them to work hard. He tells them to respect and celebrate diversity and to take charge of their future by doing their best even when it is not something they want to do. He celebrates education and the role it plays in hope and the future.

I had the rare opportunity to meet face to face with both presidential candidates over the past few months. My views are based on my personal beliefs and attitudes, but there is no comparison in my mind. Education is one of my passions. One of the candidates is openly working against teachers and public education. (See my earlier blog about meeting Mitt Romney.) The other, my choice, President Obama supports both teachers and public education.

I hope that each of you reading this blog will have the curiosity to read, if you have not already done so, the two party platforms on education (or the portion that matters most to you), the courage to speak about what you find, the perseverance to vote based on what you believe, and the passion to create your own series of fortunate events for the future, regardless of who wins the election. Our country will be a better place when we all take charge of our own destiny and be the best we can be in spite of adversity. Stop blaming the government and be the change you want to see. From the words of the wisest: You Matter! Make a difference in your own life today.