What drama we’ve been witness to, unfolding over the past year-and-a-half, when the first candidacies were announced by aspiring presidential hopefuls in both major political parties – remember Romney and Edwards and Huckabee and Clinton, et al? In the end it came down to the two powerful, tireless campaigners who carried their parties’ banner through Election Day 2008. Congratulations to the great Americans, John McCain and his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin; and to Senators Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.
The American People are fortunate indeed to have the choice of their dedicated public services. Well done, all!
And now we’ve made history – the first person of color in the 200+ years of electing our presidents will now ascend to the Oval Office in January 2009. Good for us! As a People we have now overcome centuries of outright or indirect prejudice and put racial considerations aside in selecting our next Chief Executive Officer and Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama. What a long, long journey to this moment.
All Americans should be very proud of this moment. We have begun, with this election, to put aside personal prejudices of various kinds to address the critical issues we face as a nation. And with Senator Obama’s election, we can begin to regain the prestige we enjoyed in the world before our unilateral military adventures in some parts of the world.
This has been a long journey for significant numbers of our people. In 1619 the first slaves from Africa came ashore to work under the whip in the Virginia colony plantations. It would be almost 250 years before the United States eliminated the last of the despised system of enslaving human beings. (And it took a disastrous war between northern and southern states to finally settle the issue of slavery – an awful and permanent stain on the American nation.) Another century would pass before the federal government’s full force was finally put behind equal rights for all – including the precious right to vote (with the 1964 Civil Rights legislation and the 1965 Voting Rights Act).
Who could have imagined that in only another four decades a man of African-American descent would be decisively elected president of these United States! It was less than 50 years ago when we were deciding whether a Roman Catholic could serve both the nation and his religion. (We have written here that Senator Obama was a multi-racial candidate, breaking the long list of all-white previous presidential candidates, fitting for the increasingly multi-racial makeup of the US.)
Senator Barack Obama’s path to the top was in large measure due to his intellect, his personal character, organizational skills (running one of the best campaigns in modern history), his personal charm, appeal to voters on issues of importance to many, and other factors.
The path he traveled was along the footsteps laid down by tens of millions of Americans of color who lived over the past (almost) 400 years, since the first arrivees came across the dreaded Middle Passage. The descendants of African-Americas would serve in the military, work in the manufacturing plants of Motor City (Detroit), work the land as freed farmers, become civil servants, save the lives of others as healers, and some would be elected to the US Senate and House of Representatives. Recently, two people of color would be US Secretaries of State.
Senator Obama’s path was made easier by the courageous work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the work of many heroic white men and women – the Freedom Riders of the 1960s, who worked to bring voting rights to those left out of the electorate in the southern states. Some of those states helped to put President-elect Obama over the top – including Florida and Virginia (Home of the Confederacy!).
America itself is a long and continuing journey to being color blind – as well as religious, ethnic, nationality, and gender blind. While we may still have a ways to go, this Election Day 2008 throughout this great land showed the world how far we have come.
When the tiny band of the Early Pilgrims came ashore in the early 1600s, they were seeking freedom to worship as they saw fit and pursue a new kind of life in a new land.
The leaders reached back to biblical times to characterize the “New Jerusalem.” It would be the Shining City on a Hill. That vision has persisted through all the years of the American Experience. It was validated by tens of millions of American voters yesterday.
The America that many of the rest of the world admired for its most appealing characteristics can be again the Shining City on a Hill. This writer is very proud today of this nation and the American People.
Now let us come together and live the vision that we can all be proud of.