Where does the desire to not just live, but strive come from? To not just succeed but exceed? To not just be great but be the only thing acceptable in one’s heart, the best. In “You Should Have Been a Boy,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s determination to make her father proud, drove her to do what most women of her time never did: earn a higher education or speak out against injustice. In the essay, “Superman and Me,” Sherman Alexie’s unrelenting passion for reading allowed him to turn a blind eye to the ridicule that his peers endowed upon him and helped him push pass the limitations that had been placed on his people.
Malcolm X describes in “Learning to Read,” how his illiteracy prevented him from expressing his beliefs but his strong desire to be able to communicate drove him to self-learn while serving a seven-year sentence in prison. It is those who are able to persist even when efforts are met with disappointment or failure, that make all the difference in the world. In “You Should Have Been a Boy,” after the death of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s only remaining brother, Stanton’s father in great grief said to her, “Oh, my daughter, I wish you were a boy! ” His comments initiated Stanton to make a resolution that her father would be roud of her.
Stanton studied Greek, Latin, and mathematics, just as her brother had before her. She won several academic awards and honors, and even with great achievements her father valued boys above girls. Her unrelenting resolve had unwittingly showed her the inequity between men and women. Stanton explains how many fathers would will their properties to the oldest son of the household, as a result, many mothers were now at the mercy of their sons. Stanton recalls seeing numerous women come to her home begging father, Judge Stanton for help, but being unprotected by the laws.
Determined to get rid of the unjust laws, she attempted to take scissors to her father’s law books, however, her father explained to young Stanton the long legal process involved in changing laws. He said, “When you are grown up, and able to prepare a speech, you must go down to Albany and talk to the legislators; tell them all you have seen in this office-the sufferings of these Scotch women, robbed of their inheritance and left dependent on their unworthy sons, and, if you can persuade them to pass new laws, the old ones will be a dead letter.
Without realizing it at the time, Stanton’s father had planted a seed in her head that ould lead her to help organize the first women’s rights conventions alongside Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton saw the future beyond her life. She could have simply lived a life like many middle-class white women of her day, an obedient wife to her husband and then an obedient mother to her future sons, however, Stanton desired more for herself and women.
Unfortunately, Stanton’s other ideas would separate her from the organization that she had helped establish, as her ideas failed to reflect the beliefs of the subsequent supporters of the women’s rights movement. This did not crease Stanton’s unyielding persistence, and nevertheless, she helped bring legal and social reform that improved the lives of women in the 20th century. Reading was a vital part of Sherman Alexie’s life. His love of books came from his father, who was also an avid reader.
He recalls in his essay “Superman and Me, “A smart Indian is dangerous, widely feared and ridiculed by Indians and non-Indians alike. ” He knew the perceived stereotypes that he and his people were subjected to. Yet when trying to prove to non-Indians that Indians were cable of higher education, he had to fight with his own peers. Alexie refused to cave into the pressures around him, he says, “I refused to fail. I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky,” “.. I read with equal parts joy and desperation. I loved those books, but I also knew that love had only one purpose.
I was trying to save my life. After accepting his passion, Alexie became a writing. He counters his “I was trying to save my life” to that of “our lives,” referring to the children on the Indian reservation he now works with. It is with the children that Alexie is able to help inspire the next generation of Indians. Sherman Alexie’s young life mirrors hat of Alexander Hamilton, who with an amazing ability to write, desperately wrote his way out of poverty and into the position as one of America’s founding fathers. His writing was a way to change the world, he also uses it as a way to find his place in it.
As an illegitimate child, Alexander Hamilton was unable to attend school and instead received individual tutoring. To supplement his education, Hamilton read from his family library of only a few dozen books. Similarly, Malcolm X education was very insufficient and lead him to give it up entirely. While in prison, Malcolm X said “It was because of my etters that I happened to stumble upon starting to acquire some kind of a homemade education,” and that he did. Sherman Alexie, Alexander Hamilton, and Malcolm X all consumed literature as if their life’s depended on it.
Hamilton continued to work hard, many described him as a man who wouldn’t stop. His persistence and brilliant writing ability lead him to become President George Washington’s right-hand, and to some, enemy number one. Through Malcolm X’s newfound understanding, he became a prominent figure in the Civil Rights movement and inspire many generations. He pushed the black community to keep fighting, keep getting back up. Malcolm X had many followers, however, he too had to follow his own advice and keep fighting as he had many enemies. Both Malcolm X and Hamilton were murdered well before their time.
Their relentless efforts to make the world as they saw fit, drove them into the ground, however, it was not in vain. Hamilton wrote most of the Federalist Papers, which ensured ratification of the Constitution and served as first Treasury Secretary. Malcolm X brought the discussion of racial hatred to the public ‘s attention. He wanted to better the conditions for African Americans and spoke out against injustice against all people. He ounded the Organization of Afro-American Unity with the goal of promoting human rights for African-Americans and bringing about cooperation between Africans across the United States.
Where does the desire to not just live, but strive come from? To not just succeed but exceed? To not just be great but be the only thing acceptable in your heart, the best. Maybe it was about what they all saw after countless hours of untold struggle and sacrifice were done. Maybe it was how they felt. That the struggle and sacrifice are what made it mean so much. That they don’t come to value something so passionately if it doesn’t ost them if it doesn’t change them if it didn’t come to define them. It could also be about fear.
The fear of the unknown. The fear that surrounded them when they were further than they had ever been and unable to turn back or the fear that they still had so much further to go. Maybe it was the love that overcame them when they looked back and saw all the people that they trusted so much. That their dedication was for greater things of tomorrow that they knew would one day be reached. If one is committed to reaching a goal, one will prevail in spite of the obstacles that is encountered. One must do so for the greater good of all.