Symbolism is the subtle beacon that lights our unpaved way. To go from picking cotton in the fields with no rights at all, to serving in the White House, to then being able to cast a vote for the first black President- few would have guessed it was possible. And that is why one person's journey can have a profound impact on all that follow, even if they take a different path.
Not everyone can lead a revolution like Martin Luther King Jr. but who knows if one dignified server actually did as much to change the hearts and minds of those in power and therefore our nation. The movie, which is based on the life of Eugene Allen and an article written about him and his wife Helene, is magnificent. Not only is it a great story but it is a history lesson that walks us through the many layers of race relations at that time in our country.
The election of Barack Obama meant something to me but I didn't ever doubt it would happen someday; I can't imagine what it must have meant to those who were not able to fathom it. And that is why movies like this are themselves change agents. It enlightens those who did not live through it with a sense of what folks before us went through and documents what change is possible in one's lifetime. Danny Strong did an amazing job weaving the experiences of one family, 8 Presidents, and our nation into a very compelling story-- as did the magnificent acting of all involved. Lee Daniels created a masterpiece of a film that will serve as one of those movies people will want to watch decades from now as a symbol of what is possible in America.
I think of how proud Eugene would have been to see his story touching so many others, and Helene to be portrayed brilliantly by Oprah. Their struggles and their contributions (even with the embellishments done in telling it) will inspire another generation and they will inspire another with the way they carry themselves in the work that is left to be done in our nation. I doubt Wil Haygood, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the article that lead to Danny's screenplay, knew at the time he was writing this piece he would inspire one of the great stories put on film. Rarely do we know all the lives we'll touch when we are simply living ours.
We need the big dreamers like MLK, the big personalities like Oprah, the big talents like Forest Whitaker, Danny, and Lee, but it is often those who live in quiet dignity and work hard on their own dream that change the world. One butler would eventually move the first black President to tears and remind us all how far we've come and what is possible when we live a dream for ourselves and take our unique path where it leads us.
Please go see this movie and then ask yourself: What dream is possible in my lifetime? And then get to living your story so you inspire yourself... and maybe, just maybe others along the way :)