There’s not a thing wrong with the ideals and mechanisms outlined and the liberties set forth in the Constitution of the United States. The only problem was the founders left a lot of people out of the Constitution. They left out poor people and Black people and female people. It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. And it still goes on today.
There had been an outbreak of assaults on women at night. One [cabinet] minister suggested a curfew: women should stay home after dark. I said, “But it’s the men who are attacking the women. If there’s to be a curfew, let the men stay home, not the women.”
I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that “hard work” was the secret of success: “Work hard and you’ll get ahead” or “It’s hard work that got us where we are.” No one ever said that you could work hard — harder even than you ever thought possible — and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.
To love another human in all of her splendor and imperfect perfection, it is a magnificent task . . . tremendous and foolish and human.
Diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone.
There is no human failure greater than to launch a profoundly important endeavor and then leave it half done. This is what the West has done with its colonial system. It shook all the societies in the world loose from their old moorings. But it seems indifferent whether or not they reach safe harbor in the end.
Show me a man or woman alone and I’ll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call “society.” Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast. Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare.
My uncles . . . are farmers in Minooka, Illinois. I grew up with them and their pickup trucks and mustaches, and to me that was masculinity: big, hairy, sweaty guys who could pick up a bus.
Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears.