Last night, as I watched the election results come in and it became clear that not only was Barack Obama going to win but that he was going to win handily, I couldn’t help but feel as though something profound was transpiring. For the last 8 years whenever I have craved the inspiration of historical moments and rhetorical flourishes, I have had to find succor in the speeches of Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and the other great orators and leaders that have inspired not only Americans but also the World.
But when Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver, and said the kind of things in his speech that one dreams of hearing politicians say, I knew that something profound was transpiring. Still, I, like so many in this country, was afraid that Obama would not win. In the final stretches of the campaign he had every nasty tactic in the book thrown at him–accusations of socialism, of “palling around with terrorists”, of being “not like you and me,” etc. So when 11:00 PM rolled around last night and Obama’s electoral votes were well over 300, all I could do was blink away tears and wait for this new breed of leader to come and give his acceptance speech.
To see a black man in front of a gigantic crowd on a still Chicago night, accept the Presidency of the United States with soaring rhetoric, humility and confidence; to see a black man speaking to Americans and the world in a new tone of voice–one of optimism, openness and collaboration; to see a black man say “yes we can” to all the problems we need to solve, and to know that because hundreds of millions of Americans are inspired and ready to act we will solve those problems; in short, to see a black man speak to the fractured psyche of a nation whose tremendous promise and ideals have never fully been realized, makes me proud to be an American for the first time in my life. I am proud of my country, the people who elected this man, and the people who are longing to change the way America–and the world–works.
I never thought I’d say this, but I love America tonight, not because it is perfect, not because it is great, but simply because greatness is within reach, and perfection no longer sounds like a dirty word. To have a President that inspires the lofty and the noble in us, is to have a President that will be able to call on the lofty and the noble in us to work toward making a better world for all, toward solving climate change; toward addressing global poverty; toward ending genocide in Darfur; toward rebuiling America’s infrastructure, fixing health care, switching to clean, just, renewable energy, creating millions of green collar jobs and ending the war in Iraq.
I congratulate the American people, and the people of the world. As President-elect Obama said, “this victory is yours.” Now let’s get ready for four years of hard work, inspiration, action and, I believe, success.