dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

Take Time to Celebrate Juneteenth

June 25th, 2021 by dk

It all happened so quickly. Last Tuesday, the U.S. Senate unanimously consented to create our first new national holiday since 1983. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives followed with a 415-to-14 vote. On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law. Most federal workers received Friday off with pay.

The United States Postal Service buttressed its brand for slow response times by delivering Friday’s mail as usual. Postal Service officials complained that there “there wasn’t time to shut down.” Even to do nothing, the Postal Service requires more time. (We’ll come back to this idea in a moment.)

It caught everybody off guard because it happened so fast, and from such an unlikely source. Washington passes, signs and enacts a new law in fewer than 100 hours? That’s like witnessing spontaneous combustion inside a turtle pond.

Nobody had time to consider how to celebrate this new holiday. Fortunately, we have almost a year to think about the most appropriate way to mark the moment when the news of slavery’s end finally reached Galveston, Texas in 1865.

America doesn’t often celebrate endings. Our aspirational nature favors beginnings. July 4, Independence Day, marks the day we declared our independence, not the day we won it. Tens of thousands of casualties and more than seven years later, independence was secured with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783.

Juneteenth does it differently. It marks the day when waiting ended.

Texas slaves learned on June 19, 1865 what had been decreed for them on January 1, 1863. The Civil War ended when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. Freedom was fought for and won, but liberation had not yet occurred.

Some things take time. For those slaves in Texas, knowing about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation from 2 1/2 years ago didn’t matter. Hearing General Order No. 3 recited from Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger made it real. Sometimes the important decree comes after the victory.

I suggest we commemorate Juneteenth each year by doing things that take time. Marinate a meat. Incubate a culture. Open a new novel. Take a long hike.

Portland should move its marvelous Time-Based Art Festival from September to mid-June. We should create memorable moments each Juneteenth — just as we did in 1865. We all have moments in our lives when everything changes. They are usually the culmination of unseen progressions, like union armies marching southwest, notable only in retrospect.

Whether it’s Shakespeare in the Park or watching a slackrope walker traversing between forest trees, feeling our bated breath can remind us: Our lives are constantly in motion, but experienced and chronicled as key moments — when meaning takes shape, when decisions are made, when changes occur.

As they say, “How much has to happen to you before something occurs to you?”

Time itself seems to be receding from modern life. So much is done instantly. Waiting is becoming a lost skill. We would do well to celebrate waiting each June 19th, just as we celebrate anticipation every July 4.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

Tags: No Comments

Leave A Comment

Are you human? *

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.