On June 18, 1865 Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. The following day, standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights….”
That military order, signed and announced a mere 15 miles from one of our buildings (The Rio at Mainland) initiated the beginning of Juneteenth – what was first a Texas Holiday but is soon likely to become a national one celebrating freedom – often called “America’s second Independence Day.”
One hundred and fifty-five years have passed since that announcement and yet we know, through sad, learned, and hard experience that the “absolute equality of personal rights,” is something that we still strive towards, not something that’s been accomplished.
We strive to end racism, in all its hideous forms. We strive to wipe out prejudice, discrimination, and hate. We strive to build bonds that bind us together in understanding as friends, colleagues, and families.
Oftentimes, within our striving, we are also forced to endure. There are those within our organization who’ve had to endure unimaginable pain simply because of the color of their skin. Others have endured injustice, mistreatment, false accusations, broken promises, and rejection.
So…How do we change our current status quo?
I’m reminded of our current situation and our incredible people in my search for answers.
The reality of our present situation and our company is that every person who has worked in a nursing home over the last 3 months knows intimately what it means to strive and what it means to endure. Indeed, it is difficult for me to write this letter to each of you amidst concurrent awakenings of our need for real change as it relates to racism and to a pandemic the proportions of which the world has never seen in COVID-19.
But I look to you and I look to the past and I look on the back of a common dollar bill and find hope.
First – the dollar bill. If you look at the back of the dollar bill, you’ll find an unfinished pyramid with the words Annuit Coeptis in an arch, with an eye floating above it in the air.
Why on Earth is a pyramid on the back of our most common currency? And what do the words “Annuit Coeptis” mean? And what is with that eye?
The Egyptian Pyramids stand as one of the wonders of the world because of how impressive they were (and still are). A sight to behold, they represent the very heights of human engineering and achievement. Unfortunately, they were largely built by slave labor. Imagine the toil that the Egyptian slaves went through in lifting, carrying, pulling, and ultimately, building these edifices. Imagine the burdens. Imagine all they had to endure.
The words “Annuit Coeptis” are Latin. The phrase translated means “Providence favors our undertakings.” The eye represents the eye of a higher power. Some might say it is the eye of God, others believe it is the eye of Nature, and others may claim it is the eye of our past, and present, and maybe even our future. The author of the design even mentioned how the symbol of the eye left itself open to many interpretations.
However one interprets it – as I look at the back of a dollar bill – a light bulb goes off, because the pyramid remains unfinished – and I believe that is the point.
This work we are engaged in, both in life and here at OnPointe, is an imperfect and oftentimes messy work. In a very real way – we strive and endure every day. We strive to keep COVID-19 out of our buildings and endure the struggle if it eventually arrives. We strive to be good and kind to one another but endure our own shortcomings when we lose our temper and undermine our best intentions. We strive to be open, to be just, to achieve the “absolute equality of personal rights,” and endure when others fall short, when justice also requires mercy, when minds remained closed.
My point to the good people of OnPointe is that I believe the work will never be fully complete. There are minds to change and miles to walk. Both in this country and in our company, we seek to form “a more perfect union,” with a knowledge that a fully perfect union is likely beyond our grasp.
Yet we keep striving for it. We keep enduring because of it. And He, or She, or loved ones past, or children present…they approve our undertakings. For it is in the undertaking that women’s and men’s hearts are softened, that people’s natures are changed, that we ourselves can become more perfect.
I sincerely applaud you for all your strivings. I’m so grateful for your capacity to endure. At OnPointe, we will now formally recognize June 19th, or Juneteenth, as a paid holiday for all our employees. May it be a day of both jubilee and freedom. May it be a day of hopeful renewing. And may it be a day where each and every one of you takes a moment to stop, breathe, and reflect on your own strivings, what you’ve endured, and how the people, causes, and faith you hold closest to you “favor your undertaking.”
My Sincerest Thanks for All You Do – And Happy Juneteenth Day,