“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our fathers is alive in our lifetime, who still questions the power of our democracy? This is your answer.” With those words, Obama evoked the title of his best-selling book “Dreams from My Father.” He answered the doubters in the world-at-large who may have thought that the American dream was on its deathbed. “What happens to a dream deferred?” Lorraine Hansberry asked in “A Raisin in the Sun.” “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” There had been evidence that immigration numbers were down…that fewer people from other countries wanted to come to the United States—-that some abroad no longer viewed this as the land of opportunity, but they are wrong.
“It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited 3 hours and 4 hours, many for the first time in their lives, because that this time must be different, and they believed that their voices could be that difference.” My daughter voted for the very first time. After careful consideration, she chose to register and vote in her college town of Nashville, Tennessee, which went red, anyway. Young people turned out in record numbers, giving the lie to the label of apathetic that had dogged them. Newly registered voters clogged the polling places, a tribute not only to the outstanding organization of the campaign’s masterminds but also to the determination of a battered and bruised nation to make change a reality.
In his next line, Obama paid tribute to all ethnic groups, including “gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” saying that “Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America.” I thought of the American Independence Party, which Sarah Palin seemed to actively support, even from her Governor’s office. I thought of one word: “Amen!”
“It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we an achieve, to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more to the hope of a better day.” The fear-mongering tactics that Lee Atwater taught Karl Rove and Karl Rove (“Bush’s Brain”) used over the past 8 years (and which John McCain’s handlers tried to use this year) have been discredited. The majority of citizens figured out that trying to “scare” us out of rational thinking by using color-coded charts and rattling sabers was not the right way to select a leader for this great land. We have, once again, put our hands on the arc of history and bent it to the hope of a better day. Amen to that, also.
In his next paragraph, Senator (now President-Elect) Obama paid tribute to the old warrior who ran against him, Senator John McCain. Both candidates proved to be class acts on election night, although there were times along the way that we all wondered about some of the tactics we were seeing. Guilt by association? We would all go down to defeat if we were held responsible for the sins of every single person we ever met in our lives. Roslyn Carter would be blamed for the crimes of John Wayne Gacy under the reasoning used in some of the ads. There is no question that the final day’s ad using the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary comments in an attempt to discredit Barack Obama was among the lowest of many low blows. “Too risky,” it said. What is “too risky” at this point in our nation’s history would have been more of the same.
In his next paragraph, Obama thanked his wife and children and let us all know that a puppy is coming to the White House, I immediately thought of another young president with young children who had horses (a pony named Macaroni) and who played beneath the Oval Office desk. This nation can use the happy sound of children’s laughter and the image of a happy nuclear family in the White House during these trying times. I can almost imagine Caroline Kennedy smiling at the thought, just as I am smiling at the thought.
There were echoes of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Obama’s well-crafted remarks. There were echoes of Abraham Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people and for the people” Gettysburg Address. There was a palpable sense of hope despite adversity, of leadership in tough times, of optimism amongst despair.
I felt proud to be an American last night. I felt proud to have elected the candidate who wants war to stop. I felt glad that I had done what I could to help elect the first African-American, and, some day, I hope to help elect the first female President…just so long as it’s not Sarah Palin, who is the antithesis of nearly every belief I hold. Pretty, yes. Prepared, no.