On Saturday night, at the conclusion of Lady Gaga’s “One World Together at Home” concert, I wept as she and a host of brilliantly talented musicians ended with “The Prayer.” Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, John Legend, Lang Lang on the piano, and Gaga herself stunned us all, stopped us in our tracks as they gave us a vehicle for our grief as well as a path to the hope we must have to continue in this moment in history. She said we are all citizens of the globe.
It made me realize that we are all citizens of the globe. Those in Africa and Europe and everywhere else are just like you and me. They are trying to find their place, as we all are. How can I be of use? How can I protect those whom I love when I am so far away from them? And, most importantly for me right now, how can I let go of the hatred that wells inside me toward our president and the millions who mirror him. The day after he was elected in 2016, I couldn’t imagine the blanket of uninterrupted corruption and lack of humanity that he would bring about. But last night, in that moment at the end of the program, I had a flash of being a proud citizen of the world regardless of the actions of some of my fellow global citizens.
I have always cherished my American citizenship. I have felt a strong obligation to it ever since my grandfather spoke to me of our great fortune and our resultant responsibility to others. I tried very hard to instill in my child and those within my sphere of influence my belief in our responsibility to our country. I have given my time, my thoughts, and my money to furthering that which matters to our country. I shed tears over the assassination of President Kennedy and when flag-draped coffins returned from Vietnam. I just cried a few weeks ago when two soldiers came back from Afghanistan in boxes. I have been both proud and ashamed. I stood in the back of a resort in the Catskills, right out of “Dirty Dancing,” watching Nixon resign on television. While others cheered, I sat in the back, filled with shame that our president was having to leave office in disgrace. I felt it was my disgrace. Then years later, I proudly voted for our first black president, believing we had come so far from the racial division of the 1960s. The highs and lows of citizenship.
After college, I moved to New York City and became her citizen. I went to the Simon and Garfunkel concert in the park and took a moment in the dark to consider that nowhere else in our country could one attend something like this both for free and with such a scenic backdrop. On Christmas morning, I went to Dunkin Donuts and loaded up the car to deliver 200 donuts and 100 cups of coffee to the homeless at NYC’s bus terminal. I wanted my daughter to give back on Christmas, before she opened all her gifts. I watched my 7-year-old daughter Sarah as she passed out the donuts and hugged a homeless man who told her he would only take one because he was afraid there wouldn’t be enough for everyone. Sarah has chosen a life of service in the law. I am in awe of her citizenship and her commitment to her work in government, prison reform and women’s issues.
Then there was 9/11, which was a personal shock. I watched the second plane go into the towers. I lost people I knew and cared about. I went to funerals for the police and firefighters at St. Pat’s because my mayor asked me to serve in that way. I took such pride in our response as citizens of this city. I have traveled the world. There is no other New York City. Over the years, as 9/11 faded into the background of more current events, I have continued to take such great pride in our response to the events of that day.
Today, I look at my beloved New York City and those who are risking their lives — and losing them — to save the lives of other New Yorkers they don’t even know but love and cry for all the same. I watch the citizens of my city (how lucky am I to call her my city?) sheltering in place while I see those in other cities that have suffered nowhere near the amount we have, who can’t seem to understand that strapping on guns and storming the capitol steps because they don’t want to stay inside to save others shows that they have no understanding of what citizenship means. I am so proud — so very proud — to be a New Yorker right now.
This morning I woke up still thinking about citizenship, and I realized that I am also a citizen of myself. I am master of my beliefs and my vision and my morals and my ethics. It occurred to me that perhaps the kind of citizen I am to myself bleeds into all the other passports of citizenship I hold. I also get to decide who benefits from having me as their citizen and how I will honor that responsibility. I take a moment this Sunday morning to thank my grandfather John Hinckley (descendent of Thomas Hinckley, the first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), who instilled in a 5-year-old me the understanding of where I belong in the world and my responsibilities as a citizen.