November 7, 2008
It’s been three days since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. I won’t delude myself into thinking I can contribute anything particularly unique to the mountains and mountains of reflection and analysis, but that doesn’t mean I won’t at least try. My initial reactions:
Historic. That is the word that I’ve been using with greater and greater fervor over the past week. This election was quite simply the second most historic single-day event of my politically conscious lifetime (narrowly behind 9/11, for now). From freshman year of high school onwards, my entire reality has been Bush Administrations I and II. Torture. Iraq. Guantanamo. Katrina. In political terms, this has been my status quo. To go from the “norm” of divisiveness, fear-mongering, and cynicism to the “Yes We Can” hope and inspiration of a Barack Obama presidency is a truly mind-blowing and radical shift. That is the reason why thousands of young people descended on the White House in celebration Tuesday night, that is why the streets of our nation’s capitol were flooded with joyous, delirious mobs of youth whose adult existence has been arguably one of the most destructive presidencies in our nation’s history.
History tends to happen both gradually and in fits and starts. It cannot and should not be overlooked that a mere four decades ago, our nation’s racial landscape looked like this:
Now, this very same country decided to elect Barack Obama to its highest political office, during a time of staggering unrest and uncertainty. This transformative national progress, sometimes lost amidst Obama’s purposefully post-racial rhetoric, is truly incredible. And speaking of that spine-tingling, goosebump-raising, tear-inducing rhetoric (starting around 6:00):
I don’t believe I’ve ever personally witnessed a more important or touching speech in my lifetime. He brilliantly wove in Lincoln in order to extend a the olive-branch to a nation in a time when conciliation and cooperation have never been more important. His use of 106 year-old Ann Nixon Cooper to deftly sweep through the 20th-century America was a brilliant and apt use of history to build into a crescendo of optimism. His delivery wasn’t even up to his usual oratorical standard. But reading those words imparts a sense of overwhelming historical weight – one could very easily picture these on the side of a monument one day, being memorized by our grandchildren:
“And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.
For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”
To echo our new first-lady in waiting, I’ve never been prouder of my country in my adult lifetime.