Dear Dad,

Happy Birthday! You would have been 80 years old today, Jan. 23. So much has happened in the last four years, you would not believe it. President Barack Obama just had his second inauguration. It was beautiful. Myrlie Evers Williams, the wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, gave the invocation. That was the first time a non-clergy person has given the invocation. The president placed his hand on the Bibles of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Abraham Lincoln for his swearing-in. And the first Latina Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, gave the oath to Vice President Joe Biden.

It was a beautiful day. Hundreds of thousands gathered on the Mall to celebrate another four years of hope and change. The crowd actually mirrored America and its richness of colors. It was a sight to behold. You would have loved it!

But as all this pomp and circumstance was going on in Washington, there are still a lot of problems plaguing our city and the country. There is so much violence affecting us every day. Hardly a day goes by when we do not hear of violence in our communities–whether it is one child or 20, the pain and the fear is mounting.

Our education system is still troubled, and the fights between the teachers’ union and the Department of Education are not helping anyone. At the end of the day, we have to do what is best for our children, and that is making sure they get a good education.

The political maneuvering needs to be put aside, and we need to figure out what works, unless the endgame is for our kids to not be educated. Sometimes I wonder.

As for the city unions, in general, they are getting shafted. The mayor is just biding his time, leaving negotiations to the next mayor but not leaving any money in reserve for pay increases that we all know must occur.

As for your granddaughter, she is wonderful. Talking up a storm. She reminds me so much of you. Stubborn, hard-headed, opinionated, but loving. I am so sorry you never got to meet her. You two would have been very close. But you would also be worried about what lies ahead for her; what her life will be like when she is 10, 20, 30, 40 and beyond. Will she have the same opportunities I had and that you created? Will her right to vote be stripped as voting rights across the country come under attack? Will she have the right to decide what happens to her own body, and will she have the protections she needs should something go terribly awry?

The president said in his inaugural speech, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths–that all of us are created equal–is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

I know you hope and pray, as I do, that she has a wonderful future and that all that she can dream can become a reality. And that the freedoms that we cherish, which the president evoked, shall always be preserved.

So Dad, on your 80th birthday, I just want to tell you how much I love you and miss you and that you will always be the star that guides me along this road of life. Happy Birthday!!!