Monday, April 20, 2009

Wisdom and Courage from Life’s Trials: Sarah Palin and Jason Atkinson

Cross posted at The Next Right

Alaska Governor and former Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin at the Vandeburgh, Indiana, Right to Life Banquet, April 16, 2009:

It has been an interesting year . . . .

I have learned some things--things now I know for sure--not the least of which is the need to identify who we are. Why we are so confident that American can embrace a culture of life knowing there is purpose and good destiny for every child no matter your party or your background or your race or religion. Protecting and promoting the sanctity of life trumps all of that.

Some things we can all know for sure. America’s forefathers founded this great nation with powerful words in America’s Declaration of Independence. They read in part like a holy text.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Providentially and with so much wisdom our founding fathers wrote that life is valuable because it is ordained and not because it is utilitarian. That life is precious whether in the form of a helpless baby, or a dependent senior citizen, or a special, special needs kid. I know for sure that my son is perfect just as he is, and I do believe that he’s made in the image of God.
. . .

And you know truth has a way of barging through the doors of our lives whether we are prepared for it or not. Let me take you just very quickly over a tiny bit of my recent past because I learned a lot of what I know for sure in this last year.

Our oldest son Track, he’s 19. He was getting ready to deploy with his Army Stryker Brigade over to Iraq. And you mammas know out there, oh, our first born, you know they got our heart. And now a fifth of my heart is in Iraq. So kind of life changing right there at the beginning of the year. And then we had Trig. I’ll talk about him in just a little bit. And then about a month later my teenage daughter, my strong, independent, smart, great student, good athlete, my strong daughter she came to me and she painstakingly and shockingly confided that she was going to be a mom. Talk about change. And since she’s had a beautiful, precious baby boy. But, boy, she’s now 18 years old; she came to me at 17 and gave us the news. All these circumstances in just a matter of a few months seemed so less than ideal. They seemed surreal. But I had to hold on to my faith, my belief that, again, everything has purpose. Oh what a year. And then a couple of months later, yeah, I was chosen to run for Vice-President, that too happened.

The circumstances there really allowed me an understanding of the sensitivities and the complexities of what a woman goes through in maybe some less than ideal circumstances when she finds out that she is pregnant. I learned a lot about kind of the other side of the issue, and it has helped me. It has helped me be even more confident in our position that protecting life is what we need to do here in America.

There has been great purpose in what I went through this past year. I was so anxious to meet Trig because I had learned at 13 weeks along that he would be born with Down Syndrome. And that blew me away. It just rocked my world, and to be honest with you I had a heck of a time being able to put my arms around the idea of . . . first, having a baby at 44. And then knowing that the baby would have some challenges. It was a serious time of testing. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a time where I had to ask myself was I going to walk the walk or was I just going to talk the talk as Matthew [West] sang about--going through the motions. I had to ask myself that.

I had found out that I was pregnant while out of state first at an oil and gas conference. While out of state there just for a fleeting moment, oh I knew nobody knows me here. Nobody would ever know. I thought, wow, it is easy, can be easy to think maybe of trying to change the circumstances. No one would know. No one would ever know. And then when my amniocentesis results came back showing what they called “abnormalities”. Oh, dear God, I knew, I had instantly an understanding for that fleeting moment why someone would believe it could seem possible to change those circumstances. Just make it all go away and get some normalcy back in life. Just take care of it. Because at the time only my doctor knew the results. Todd didn’t even know. No one would know. But, I would know.

You know at first I thought, “How in the world could we manage a change of this magnitude.” I was a very busy governor with four busy kids and a husband with a job hundreds of miles away up on the North Slope oil fields. And, oh the criticism that I knew was coming.

Plus I was old. And I thought, “Yeah, very funny God. Uh-huh. My name is Sarah, but my husband is not Abraham. He’s Todd. Yeah, and just like Sarah of old, I too, I laughed.

So, yow, the thought, you know starting all over with diapers and midnight feedings, and putting down the Blackberry and picking up the breast pump. Doing all that all over again. Truly, less than ideal circumstances, perhaps. But, I had just enough faith to know that my trying to change the circumstances wasn’t any answer. And, friends here tonight, that faith was built on what I hear from you, Vandeburgh Right to Life. The seeds that you plant in a heart with your kind and your adamant efforts that can grow into a good decision to choose life.

I came to believe that Trig’s pre-natal test was me being asked if I would trust and believe, and more importantly live out, what I had been saying for years about the pro-life movement and the purpose and the sanctity of every life no matter the circumstances. I had always been pro-life I said. So, we went through some things a year ago that now lets me understand a woman’s, a girl’s, temptation to maybe try to make it all go away if she has been influenced by society to believe that she is not strong enough, or smart enough, or equipped enough, or convenienced enough to make the choice to let the child live. I do understand what these women, what these girls, go through in that thought process.

We all have our challenges and our battles. Everyone one of you goes through life’s trials. And maybe you’re going through a battle now. I want to encourage you that in my moments of doubt that I just went through a year ago with these different steps, I clung to a faith that taught me that we could meet the challenges. That we won’t be given anything that we can’t handle. And really, at times, that faith was all that I had.

I was anxious to meet Trig. Because, believe it or not, I didn’t know what to expect. And, believe it or not, I didn’t even know what a baby with an extra chromosome was going to look like or feel like because I had a heck of a time researching Down Syndrome when I was pregnant and getting my arms around this. And it just seemed like that when I tried to open the book like this was something for someone else, someone stronger and maybe more compassionate than I to be able to give this child what he would need to better handle the circumstances. I wasn’t sure if my heart could hold what this baby would need.

So, I prayed that might heart would be filled up. What else did I have. I had to call upon my faith and ask that my heart be filled up. And, I’ll tell you the moment the he was born I knew for sure that my prayer was answered. And my heart overflowed with joy.

And I tell you this for a reason. I felt a love that I had never felt before and compassion that I didn’t even know was there. Trig is a miracle, and he has brought amazing and surprising happiness and great, great perspective. Oh my goodness, when I hold Trig a whole lot of the other things on the periphery--it just goes away.

He has brought amazing, surprising happiness, and he is the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I want other women to give this a chance and experience this. This that can make their lives better--not inconvenienced or burdened--but, if they give it a chance, it can make their life better. And it can make an adoptive family’s life better. See now I can look at my little boy, or any of those who make up our precious special needs community. And I can now look at a scared, maybe embarrassed, unwed teenager carrying a child. And I can look in a desperate, adoptive parent’s eyes, seeing their longing for a child. And I can know for sure, Vandeburgh Right to Life, you are doing the right thing because you are planting those seeds reminding us that children are meant as perfect gifts, not as burdens. They are truly the most precious and promising ingredients in this world. And that is what you are reminding us.

Oregon State Senator Jason Atkinson:

Georgene [Rice]: Tell us what happened on that day in July of 2008.

Atkinson: I was working on a bike and accidentally dropped a bag I was removing from under the seat. It usually carries tubes and tools for the bike. I heard a popping noise and found myself on the ground bleeding to death. My wife quickly put her finger in the bullet hole and used a bike tube as a tourniquet.

Psalms 23 says, “He makes me lie down”. I used to think that was optional. But it’s really not. In a split second our lives changed. I went from being the hard charging person to being made to lie down.The next several hours we didn’t know if I was going to live. In the weeks after, we didn’t know if I’d be able to keep my leg or my foot. Now it’s a matter of whether I’ll be able to stand or walk.

Georgene: You are a man of faith. For some, the expectation is that if we are following Christ these kinds of things aren’t going to happen. What were your initial thoughts?

Atkinson: When you give your life to Christ it doesn’t mean everything is going to be rosy. My wife has beaten cancer and as a micro preemie my son is not supposed to be alive. When I started in politics I understood business, the environment, and higher education and I wanted people to be inspired to be in public service. I never thought I would be interested in pre-natal care, but with my son born at 24 weeks old I now understand those issues. When you’re a 6’4 guy and find yourself in a wheelchair having to ask for help, it changes your life in ways you never considered. God never says it’s going to be easy. It’s all a matter of how you respond and react to bad times. I think some of the people who have touched my life could have only been touched by my going through these things.