Sherman Alexie, Native American author, speaker and comic addressed the Toledo Public Library audience at the Stranahan Theater in Toledo, Ohio on Wednesday, September 11, 2013. He presented as energized, enthusiastic and positive about the opportunity to speak to an audience comprised of "nerds" who were much like himself.
He was unapologetic about his leftwing, liberal, anti-war, pro-patriotism points-of-view. He related that his family (father and grandfather) had a history of serving the United States (U.S.) in the military. He chose to share a story about the impact his deceased, war-hero paternal grandfather had on his personal and emotional life from beyond the grave. His personal quest to obtain a replacement set of his grandfather's military medals of honor became the catalyst for a great personal epiphany.
His work and his quest became the focus of his interview with Oprah Winfrey on national television. Alexie had stated to Oprah's representative during the pre-show interview that he felt the medals presented a path to healing and forgiveness for him and his father. Alexie reported that he felt his response to the interview questions was fabricated and pure fiction, not realizing that it was his heart that was speaking and not his intellectualized fictional talent. Unbeknownst to Alexie, Oprah had arranged for the U.S. military to present him with the medals on the televised program. He shared with the Toledo audience his experience of the reality of holding the medals and the U.S. flag in his hands. He reported that the moment brought forth an unexpectedly strong emotional response.
Alexie proceeded to narrate how the presenting of those medals to his own father created yet another opportunity for healing within his family. His father, who was in late-stage kidney failure, appeared to resolve some unfinished emotional tasks upon receiving the medals into his keeping. Alexie related that the medals seemed to act symbolically to bring his grandfather into his father's grief work. In the few short weeks before Alexie's father passed away, the medals brought the three generations of Native American men a deeper intimacy. Knowing that he was the agent of that opportunity appeared to bring Alexie a measure of comfort and closure regarding his father's death.
Sherman Alexie's narrative presentation on this date brought the audience into the history of his "medal" story, and expanded the story by making it a part of our story.