I am honestly in shock that this is the first week of February 2017. There is no longer any excuse to misprint the date as 2016 or start off messages with 'Happy New Year.' For many Americans, 2017 has already been incredibly trying, with the citizens of our country more divided and incensed than most millenials have witnessed in our lifetime.
I have the utmost respect for the droves of protesters organizing marches and making signs, but I do think that we all need to think critically about the efficacy of many of these activities. Making a lasting impact is all a matter of elevating this movement from a grassroots blip on President Trump's radar to an urgent issue that is absolutely imperative to address. Somehow, Americans need to forcefully reclaim power to the people.
To me, this pandemonium just accentuates the need for us to remember that this month, more than any other, should be devoted to overt displays of affection and making the most of all the love around us. While it is incredibly easy to dismiss a citizen with a vastly different point of view as completely uneducated, racist, sexist, or detrimental to our collective future, we need to remember that we are all Americans and ultimately want the best for our country. Please try your very best to be understanding. Unless you are a Native American, we are all immigrants, and though our views on the best path forward clearly vary wildly, we absolutely MUST find some way to respect each other, negotiate effectively, and find some common ground so we can begin to see legitimate improvement.
With that said, let's return to discussing the magic of Valentine's Day. While Thanksgiving focuses on gratitude, Christmas on promoting peace, and the Fourth of July is a celebration of independence, no other major American holiday is entirely focused on giving and receiving love- something we desperately need at this tumultuous and divisive moment. Since high school at St. Paul's, I have written my friends handwritten notes every Valentine's Day, taking the time to appreciate the joy they each bring to my life.
In my family, we begin celebrating birthdays on the first of the month. Four weeks are filled with candle-lit desserts, festive balloons and banners, thoughtful care packages, enthusiastic cards, and a plethora of special events commemorating the occasion. I have decided to embrace that tradition this February, integrating the colors associated with Valentine's Day into my outfits as my daily reminder that this February is an extraordinary month ripe with possibilites. For longer than I can remember, I have absolutely adored planning out my outfits and finding inimitable pieces to elevate my look. Consciously dressing for success is a powerful reminder of one’s agency to affect change.
This year, in addition to bringing me a hand-embroidered purse and a series of gorgeous bangles from India, my incredible friend Mallika Punwani offered one of the most compelling quotes about the importance of love from Persian religious leader Abdu’l-Baha, an avid champion of social justice and an ambassador for international peace.
“Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love.”
Integrating this month's overt celebration of love as part of your daily routine is essential. Take a moment to be inspired by the giant teddy bears, heart shaped Reece's Pieces and SweetTarts lining the shelves at convenience stores. We are fortunate to be in the first days of a month where we we will be surrounded by reminders of how influential expressing love can be. It is absolutely frightening to realize all that has happened since the inauguration, which occurred less than two weeks ago. Time is certainly of the essence, and we need to band together.
Before the Puritans landed on American soil, future governor John Winthrop proclaimed 'We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us [Americans]." This rings true today, and I feel the palpable anxiety of my international classmates, who entered a completely different America a few months ago. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember that when nothing is certain, absolutely anything is possible. Remember, THIS IS VALENTINE’S MONTH. Make a concerted effort to be kind to every single person you interact with, spread love, organize the people you know to stand up for what is right, and make sure you are ready to eloquently defend your stance - America's future is literally in our hands.