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Change is happening before our eyes

The quintessential quote about change — and how quickly we expect it to arrive — comes from that sage known as Archie Bunker, who had endured all the menopausal musings he could stand from Edith during an Emmy-award winning episode in 1972.

"I know all about your woman's troubles there, Edith, but when I had the hernia that time, I didn't make you wear the truss!" Archie hollered. "If you're gonna have the change of life, you gotta do it right now. I'm gonna give you just 30 seconds. Now c'mon ... change!!"

(For the record, Edith goes, "can I finish my soup first?")

We know, of course, that change happens at the speed of tooth decay, if even that fast. It is borne of patience and persistence, which aren't exactly the chief exports anymore here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

But we are seeing change here in our corner of the world. Turns out the recent Black Lives Matter protests through East Lyme and Waterford were harbingers of youthful idealism morphing into enterprise and action. This likely disappoints some in the Human Comments Section (HCS) who perhaps dismissed the protests as bigger on rhetoric than practicality.

Wrong again.

Headlines in The Day earlier this week alluded to school officials in East Lyme responding to calls for curriculum changes and policy reform relating to students of color and better educating the breadth of the student body as to issues of Black history.

Superintendent Jeff Newton said there will be discussions about changes to the district's curriculum, diversity training for teachers to better help them address issues of racism, a review of a recruitment plan for hiring teachers of color and a Diversity Committee consisting of staff, students and parents.

The agents of change are a 16-year-old student, Imanhi Ward, and a newly formed group East Lyme for Black Lives Matter, headed by Ben Ostrowski, a former three-sport athlete at the school. Ostrowski said members are hoping to also present their suggestions to the Board of Education in July.

And this is how change begins.

Ostrowski was always a thoughtful kid, hearkening his days writing for The Viking Saga, the school newspaper. Ostrowski has an inspiring personal story as well. His family adopted perhaps the most famous member of the household, his younger brother Dev, who is of Haitian descent. Dev is the among the greatest basketball players in the history of the region, a kid whose comportment was to be envied and whose story can't be told enough.

The Ostrowskis opened their hearts and their home. Now their older son is opening the minds of an entire town. And beyond. Ben Ostrowski honors two timeless quotes about change we need to memorize.

Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Barack Obama: "Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we see."

Change is coming beyond East Lyme's borders as well. Former Waterford High football and lacrosse player Luther Wade has a petition with more than 600 signatures, asking that Waterford public schools require Black history as a requirement — and plans to address the Board of Education this week.

Ostrowski and Wade probably have no idea the importance of their persistence, plans and passion. Their commitment to changing the way people are educated ultimately affects the purveyors of power and policy.

"You have people who have been arguing from the beginning of this country that the problem, the racial problem, is Black people," author Ibram X. Kendi said recently during a televised special, "Where Do We Go From Here?" hosted by Oprah Winfrey.

"What we've been saying is, no, from the beginning of this country, the problem is power and policy. And so if you believe the problem is Black people, then you're going to go around and figure out ways to incarcerate or segregate Black people. But if you realize that the problem is policy and power — because there's nothing inferior about Black people — then you'll focus on changing power and policy."

This is exactly what Ostrowski and Wade are inspiring. Power and policy change only when all voices are heard. Teachers and kids alike in East Lyme, Waterford and all points beyond have some studying to do in future years. Eventually, we get here:

This country works best when we include everyone of all colors, religions, ancestries and orientations who learn with, play with and learn about each other.

I'm proud to have once told the athletic stories of Ostrowski and Wade. But I'm prouder of them now. Sure glad they didn't just stick to sports.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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