In the summer of 1995, an amazing sight appeared in Berlin, the capital city of Germany. The Reichstag, or Parliament building, which is like our Capitol in Washington, DC, was all wrapped up in miles of silvery fabric. This spectacle was the work of an artist named Christo. Why did he do it? How was this event art?
You have to think back to a time sixty and seventy years ago when that same building was the seat of the Nazi government. Adolf Hitler, one of the most evil men in history, had taken control of the German government. He was a spellbinding orator who made the galleries of that building resound with fiery speeches full of hatred, racism, religious intolerance and aggression. A lot of his evil was accomplished because he took control of the police and the armed forces and used them against honest and decent people who opposed him.
Hitler is gone. In the end, he created nothing, achieved nothing. He is nothing. He wrote one book. It contains nothing of value. We remember him only as an evil man who started a terrible war, murdered millions of innocent people and brought his own country down into shame and ruin.
Christo knows Hitler. He knows history. He knows that time and time again, we have seen that all power and authority have the potential to be misused. But those who so misuse power and authority are inevitably made to pay for their crime. There is a mighty force that brings them down. Christo conceived a way to show the world that force -- the triumph of freedom and imagination.
I wrote this little book for many reasons. One of them is that I'm afraid. Many people in our society are afraid of police officers. Black people. Jews. Women. Young people. People who have slipped into our country from Latin America, Asia, China, Africa and many other places looking desperately for a better life. Poor people. Homeless people. Gay and Lesbian people. Old people. People with physical and mental disabilities. Artists. People with unusual political or religious beliefs. People who don't fit in. People who are different. People who are trying to change things. And sometimes, we're just afraid that our heroes -- the men and women in whom we place all of our faith and trust -- will disappoint us.
In writing this book, I'm doing what Christo did. I am using my talent and imagination to stand up to the thing I'm most afraid of. Instead of wrapping it up, I have raised up all around it a great, colorful tent, invited everybody in and transformed it into a circus.
In Germany, much of the damage Hitler did has been healed. What was destroyed is rebuilt. What was divided has been brought back together. The Reichstag, badly damaged at the end of World War II, is again the seat of Germany's government. In fact, the Germans built a huge new dome of glass atop the building that will let in the light of day for as long as it stands.
All this doesn't mean that bad things will never happen again. Just watch your television. They happen all the time. Have you heard of Somalia? Bosnia? Kosovo? Chechnya? East Timor? Rwanda? Aceh? Ulster? Tibet? And now, even New York City?
So, why don't we just give up?
When Christo's event was over and the building was being unwrapped, there was a moment when the inscription on its facade could be seen again. Dem Deutschen Volk -- To the German People.
Christo, you see, took back what Hitler and his Nazis had stolen and degraded and turned it into a gift. He made it new again. What he did, what every artist does, is to take all the nightmares of our history and transform them into the greatest gift of all: hope.
On Christmas morning, 1994, I woke up with a little story in my mind that tells of how a certain police officer inspired me to write this book and send it out into the world with its message of hope.
TERRY'S BIG ADVENTURE(TOM'S TOO)
One day, Terry packed up all his important stuff and ran away.
As he walked along the road, he met a State Trooper in a gray uniform with a Stetson hat and a purple tie. His name was Tom. Tom said: "Where are you going, kid?" Terry said: "I'm going to join the circus." Tom thought about that for a moment and said: "Great idea. Let's go!"
So, off they went.
Before long, they found the circus and signed aboard.
Tom quickly found a job that suited him to a T -- 5 Ts, in fact. They billed him as Trooper Tom The Tiger Tamer. He would perform every night in a cage with huge, ferocious tigers. He trained them to do amazing things. One time, he taught them to play football and they almost beat the Buffalo Bills in an exhibition game!
Terry learned to do magic tricks and he made up and told stories about Tom and all the people and animals in the circus. Soon, he had all the children and the old people telling his stories and trying out the tricks he had taught them. (They really were magic, but anyone can learn to do them if someone teaches them the secret.) There was a part for each and everyone in all of his stories and the magic showed them the power they had to make the kind of world they wanted for themselves and their children.
Terry had great qualities of leadership. No one has ever done a better job of getting all the performers and the animals -- even the elephants and the donkeys -- to work together to put on a great show.
Eventually they voted to make Terry their Ringmaster. That was a smart move on their part. The circus prospered and drew bigger crowds and performed in more cities and towns than ever before and even went to foreign countries.
Well, that's the story of two friends who found the perfect jobs for themselves. And of course, everybody lived happily ever after.
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