I have worked every Presidential election since Bill Clinton's second term. Never, have I seen what has unfolded this past week. I knew whatever happened Tuesday would make history. Either Barack Obama would be the first African American President or Sarah Palin would be the first female Vice President. Both invoked strong feelings from Americans. I refused to accept the polls could be correct. Could a black man be elected to lead the United States of America? Even as I glanced at the electoral votes, seeing the growing difference between Obama and John McCain, I could not wrap my brain around what was happening. Then, just before 10pm our time, it was made official. If I hadn't been so busy with our local election stuff, I might have had more of a reaction. Instead, I reflected on it, then went back to work. I did pause to watch John McCain's sincere concession speech. It was moving - not just because it was the last time McCain will run for this great office, but because I think he meant it when he said:
Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.
I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences, and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
Now, back to Obama. I have watched plenty of politicians speak, either in small groups or at large rallies. I'm used to seeing people who have that look of, "That's our candidate. He/She will get the job done." I have never seen people who have hope in their eyes as they do when Obama speaks. I had the privilege of seeing him speak before the primary election. I say it was a privilege because even though it was the same stump speech, mixed in with Q&A from those in attendance, I didn't hear anyone walking away after the rally saying, "Well, what does he really think?" People don't just like Obama. They believe in him. That's HUGE!
Ever since I first heard him speak at the DNC in 2004, I was moved by what he said and how he said it.
I stopped what I was doing, sat down on my sofa and thought to myself, "I don't know who that guy is with the funny sounding name, but he's going to be President some day!" I thought it would be some day when I was old and gray (I've got a few gray hairs and am not quite old now).
When I compared the two nominees this year, I couldn't help but spot the obvious differences (black/white, young/old). But in all my research, I knew Obama was my candidate.
Like Obama, I am bi-racial. Like Obama, I have a birth father who abandoned me. Like Obama, I have had to tell myself that no one can tell me I can't do something. Why? Because I am American. I have never related to a candidate on this level before. I have no desire to be President - especially with politics being such a nasty business. There were times when I heard some really awful (and untrue) comments about Obama and I wondered why he would run for this office. I think the answer is simple: he wants to break down those barriers for his daughters, for the children whose parents think there are limits to how high those kids can go.
I have heard people who voted for JFK say they had hope in that Irish Catholic guy with the funny accent. I have heard people who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., talk about the hope they had then. Friends and anonymous readers, I have hope now. My hope is that no child will ever grow up and think they cannot achieve greatness just because their parents can't afford to send them to college. My hope now is that people will stop making their racist remarks (you know what they are - I'm not repeating them here) and accept that 52% of America voted for Obama. Unlike the last two elections, this outcome was very clear: The People want change.
I am excited about our future. Now, all these days after history was made, I have been watching some of the coverage I recorded. I'm not gonna lie, I have shed some tears. Not just because the candidate I chose won, but because of all the people who died before Obama was elected - his grandmother and mother among them. I know they're looking down at him, cheering him on.
Go ahead and make your predictions of doom. Armchair quarterback the decision made to make Palin the VP, the decision to continue to make statements that were untrue while refusing to address the real issues - or anything else that may have cost McCain the chance to be President. But the way this economy has fallen, we know it will get better - history tells us this. I just ask that you give Obama the chance to prove himself. If he doesn't, you can vote him out in four years.