The embodiment of what America can and should be stood on stage at Grant Park in Chicago late Tuesday night and accepted the prize that is rightfully his.
Barack Obama – half black, half white and all American – swept into office on the tidal wave of young voters, black solidarity and enough white dissatisfaction to send too many years of Republican regression packing.
A black man (OK, half black) will become the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009. It was an event that many – myself included – predicted would never happen in our lifetimes. America is still too racist, many of us thought, and that racism, whether overt or buried, would rise up in the polls and prevent the history we saw unfold across the nation on Tuesday.
We were wrong. I was wrong and I’m happy to admit it.
As expected, Obama delivered a stirring speech from the stage, saying “Change has come to America” and promising to work to unite a nation divided by bitter, partisan differences.
His task won’t be easy and he acknowledged that from the podium, noting that he will make mistakes and promising to do something his successor never did: Admit to the American people when he is wrong.
The massive crowd of 100,000 plus in Grant Park was not all black. They were white, black, yellow and red. They represented differing political philosophies and diverse backgrounds. They came to see history in the making and they did not go home disappointed.
Obama acknowledged that the problems facing America are daunting. He cannot, and will not, turn this nation from its self-destructive course overnight or even over the next few weeks and months. America’s decline has been years in the making and the cure will take months and years to purge this nation of the cancer that inflicts our national psyche for far too long.
We can only hope he succeeds and that the nation can unite behind him to make it happen. Obama assumes the helm of a sinking ship, battered by the storms of division and taking water from a rising tide of corruption and cynical political opportunism.
He will need help and the same American voters who put him into office also gave him a Congress that should be more receptive to his programs and ideas for change.
We, as Americans, must give the new President and Congress a chance to deliver. We must put aside our own selfish interests, party affiliations and fears from the past.
It’s time to stop thinking as Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives or red state or blue state. Such labels lead to division, not cohesion. Such divided loyalties breed partisanship not patriotism.
We’re Americans and in these troubled times that is, should be and must be all that matters.