November 2008

This little light of mine

By Maya Angelou
By Marian Wright Edelman
By Patrick Henry Hughes
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Maya Angelou, the renowned poet, writer, performer, teacher and director, calls on each of us to do nothing short of "something wonderful for humanity" in her new autobiographical book, Letter to My Daughter. In her introduction, Angelou explains that the title refers to her "thousands of daughters" of every color, religion and persuasion – women "fat and thin, pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered. I am talking to you all." (So listen up!) Now in her seventh decade, the famed author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings shares her remarkable life experiences (some downright terrifying) and down – to – earth wisdom ("The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity") with humility and candor as she calls on women to play a special role in leading the way to a better world. Reminding us of America's noble ideals and lofty promise she asks, "Didn't we dream of a country where freedom was in the national conscience and dignity was the goal?" With faith, kindness and a sprinkling of poetry, Angelou's Letter to My Daughter sheds her gentle, intelligent light down the rocky road ahead.

Like Angelou, Marian Wright Edelman believes that women, as the bearers of life (and half the voting population), must become a stronger force for justice and decency. Edelman is the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund and author of the bestseller The Measure of Our Success. She's an outspoken advocate for civil and human rights and her latest book, The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation, urges personal activism, "standing up and reclaiming our children, families, communities, our moral values and our nation." Despite the "unjust odds handed them by the lottery of birth," millions of children, Edelman notes, "are living heroic lives" and deserve to be affirmed, empowered and celebrated. Written as open letters to our past and present leaders, our youth and all of us as citizens, Edelman asks, "What kind of people do we Americans seek to be in the twenty – first century? What kind of people do we want our children to be? What kind of choices and sacrifices are we prepared to make to realize a more just, compassionate and less violent society and world – one safe and fit for every child?" Edelman's book offers advice, anecdotes, statistics, resources and prayers to guide us – like a lighthouse if you will – to more stable waters in these turbulent seas.

The deeply moving story of Patrick Henry Hughes, born in 1988 with a rare genetic disorder that left him without eyes and with limbs that would never fully develop, is a source of inspiration for anyone battling against the odds. Despite being blind and unable to fully extend his arms, at nine months old the young Hughes displayed an uncanny ability – he could locate and play back the notes his dad struck on the piano. Today, thanks to his love for music and his parents' unwavering faith, Hughes, at 20, is already an award – winning pianist, singer and trumpet player and currently a student at the University of Louisville majoring in Spanish. I Am Potential: Eight Lessons on Living, Loving, and Reaching Your Dreams, by Patrick Henry Hughes, written with his father Patrick John Hughes and Bryant Stamford, tells his amazing story from birth to the present day by alternating between his point – of – view and his dad's. As they chronicle their journey and share their learned "life lessons," I Am Potential emerges as more than an incredible triumph – over – adversity tale or a beautiful father/son relationship saga. It also evolves into the story of how helping one boy fight to achieve his dreams gave so many others the opportunity to expand their own abilities and capacities – to become their best selves.

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