>There are so many things that can be said about any election and this one in particular. Now that the dust has settled slightly and Obama is putting together his cabinet and planning the transition it is worth stepping back a bit, look at the sweep of history, and consider what this change really means for the U.S. A lot of issues were on the table from the economy to terrorism, but in truth those are merely details, important as they are. What is far bigger, far more reaching and profound, is the cultural sea change this presidency may represent. An African American president is a stunning example of something deeper going on in this country than mere politics. An African American president at this point in our history says something about our collective soul, about our character as a nation. Obama may turn out to be a good president and not a great one, he may be challenged in ways that shake his resolve or push him in directions he did not intend to go, he may become mired in some of the lousy politicking that is our government’s tendency, but he will always be our first African American president. That is a remarkable achievement. He is our generation’s Jackie Robinson and more. And he just might turn out to be a great president too. I pray that he does.
I say all this as a white guy who has never directly felt the affects of racism or bigotry. I live in a largely white city far from the streets of Chicago or the burrows of New York or any of the former slave states. My knowledge of race related struggles comes mainly from documents like Eyes on the Prize and books. I could be considered an unlikely Obama supporter. Even so I was eager to vote for Obama. Time came to realize the importance and rightness of that vote, and I am glad I did. I believe this nation will be glad it did too. Obama is not a savior, there are no saviors in politics, but he is a good man with a good heart who inspires, and this country’s greatest moments have always been the products of inspiration.
I have always thought that the American dream was not economic opportunity but the possibility of freedom and the multitude of opportunities that come with freedom. I have believed that this country’s greatest assets are not its natural resources or it labor force but its underlying ideas and ideals. My desire is that my children see that as well. I desire they see being an American is not a chance to get something but to give, not a chance for the wealth of things but the wealth of goodness and character. This election has been a chance to more fully put those ideas on the table and talk about them. Having Obama in the race has heightened it even more. Freedom is also a responsibility, but that responsibility is not merely a burden but another opportunity. Freedom is an opportunity to do what is right, to live a life of service, to give. These are rather starry-eyed words, and much of Obama’s rhetoric soars in that direction, but inspiration is good. It is a worthy thing to ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country – to quote another American president.
Without illusions I see those words “President Obama” as signaling once again a chance to check our cynicism at the door and work together in doing good. That chance has always been there, of course, but now there is a new spirit in the air. As I see it, it is not ultimately about what we accomplish but who we are. I believe that is true for us a nation as much as it is true for each individual.
Naturally there is a lot of excitement and joy in this country and around the world about Obama’s election. Here are couple of well-made videos that unpack some of those emotions and what this election means to a lot of people: