In Tennyson’s poem, “Ulysses” the aged Greek hero observes, “I am become a name.” In other words, when you achieve great fame, you are a “somebody.”
Mention the names “Oprah, Barak, or Tiger” and no one will ask, “Oprah, Barak, or Tiger who?” We all know who they are. They have each “become a name.” That our culture’s most famous entertainer, politician, and athlete just happen to be African-American suggests that, if we aren’t yet living in a post-racial age, we have at least made significant progress in this area.
In her recently updated book, We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters, Cokie Roberts points out that we haven’t made the same kind of advances when it comes to gender. For example, when Sarah Palin (remember Tina Fey’s friend?) ran for national office, she was frequently asked how she could possibly raise a family while holding down the vice presidency. Roberts points out that another candidate in that same race also happened to be raising two young daughters, and nobody but nobody would have dreamed of asking him if he could be both leader of the free world and a good parent.
Issues related to gender frequently come up in class discussions, but I wonder if, as a boys school (and let’s admit it, a privileged boys school at that), we should be more intentional about addressing issues of fairness. I wonder, too, if the great diversity of our student body will enhance or inhibit these kinds of discussions?
If nothing else, we should heed Tennyson’s final line when it comes addressing the battle for equality. Despite the obstacles, we should “strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”