It’s over. The long primary season and the fight for the presidency are finished. Everything crystallized on the night of November 4th when Barack Obama took the stage with his wife and two young daughters. The scene felt like a contemporary version of 1960, when John F. Kennedy captured the imagination of the country. The nation was swept with a tide of idealism, and the belief that every individual could make a difference.
Now that excitement and euphoria have given way to quiet thoughts about the way that history works. There is the understanding that monumental events – a turning point, revelation, or even the life’s blood of some — becomes the stuff of textbooks for others.
Each person has a different reference point for the election of Barack Obama. A stream of consciousness went through my head. One of the thoughts included Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner – the three civil rights workers who went to Mississippi in 1964 to register black voters – and ended up being brutally murdered.
In an e-mail to my 14-year-old son, a Pennsylvania acquaintance he met on a trip wrote that if Obama were elected president, African-Americans would “have it so easy.” Disturbed by the remark he wrote back, “Obama is going to be the president for all Americans. I think your comment and the way you phrased it was racist.” It reminded me of how far we still have yet to go.
But it is a new dawn. The rest of the world is seeing America differently. We are seeing ourselves differently. That is a powerful start.