This morning, on my way to work, listening to radio excerpts (again) of Senator Obama's victory speech, the Speech Heard Round the World, and thinking of how far all of this has come as the news folks talked about it, the tears came again. (And, as before, I am not being metaphorical here.) I felt, as Michelle Obama said months ago, "proud to be an American," perhaps moreso than I have ever been in my life. I felt, as she did, proud to be a part of a country that could put its history of racial divide behind it and, despite an occasionally rancorous campaign, nominate an African-American (and for that matter one for whom that appellation actually means something very literal) for President.
And after the last seven years of lies and deceit and evil in our nation's capital, I listened to the beautiful words of hope coming from this nam...and the tears came.
All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren’t the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn’t do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – we cannot afford to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say – let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America
This is the culmination of a year and a half of brilliant campaigning. I am willing to bet that, in the future, pilitical science students will study Barack Obama's 2008 campaign vs. Hillary Clinton as one of the most perfectly devised of all time. How anyone--especially the Senator from New York or the Senator from Arizona who, presented with a gift of a bunch of knuckleheads to run against in the first place and then in the second place months of bitter infighting within the opposition practically designed so that he could gift-wrap himself as an elder statesman--could claim this guy is too raw to succeed is surely a sign of their own inability to grasp reality.
But it is the beginning of a new battle, one that goes on not only for the next several months against Senator McCain but for the next several years: the battle to undo all of the damage that Buch/Cheney have done to the United States of America within our own borders and in the eyes of the world community.
On WXRT Chicago this morning (home of "the best political team in rock radio"), Mike Flannery of CBS Chicago News, sleepy after a long night in St. Paul, spoke of sitting next to a Brazilian reporter last night during Obama's speech. The Brazilian woman told him of a friend of hers--back home--a woman who was so taken by Senator Obama and what he stand for that she had plastered pictures and articles about him all over her room. In Sao Paulo! Look at the incredible array of international headline posted on Huffington's front page (while they are still there), a mere sampling of what is out there. What we fail to appreciate sometimes is the sheer magnitude of this race: this is not merely about the United States Presidency (and I use the word "merely" advisedly). It is about nothing less than the revival of faith and hope in the entire world. Despite Bush/Cheney, the world still believes in what this country has always stood for. The world wants us back again.
In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.
It is indeed time for this country to become great again. The world wnats it and we all want it. Somewhere deep inside, even those 27% of us who, for some reason only they can come close to explaining, believe that Bush/Cheney are doing a good job probably want it. And when they see an America once again respected by the world instead of reviled, when they witness what might have been after 9/11 when almost the entire community of world nations was behind us and our leaders thumbed their collective noses at it and tossed its support aside, they will know then that they wanted it all along.
It will be a fight. It will be a battle. We will not, of course, get everything we want, nor will we get anything easily. There are entrenched powers that do not wish to be unseated so easily. But this battle has been waged before, as Barack Obama intoned, and under much more severe circumstances.
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.
So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.
So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom’s cause.
So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that’s better, and kinder, and more just.
And so it must be for us.
So I was driving to school this morning to grade my exams and pack my boxes so my classroom can be moved over the summer and I found myself crying. But unlike the tears of two weeks ago, these were not inexplicable tears, tears I would have to spend hours wondering about, poring over, analyzing in order to understand. No, these were much, much simpler.
These were tears of joy.
America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.