Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

It was two years ago, in a bar in New York City, when I said to a friend of mine, "Can a black freshman senator with the name Barack Hussein Obama really be elected President of the United States?"

In late 2006, or early 2007, the answer to that question was no. But after two years of campaigning, and the most topsy-turvy election cycle in our nation's history, the answer, resoundingly, is yes.

Yes we can, and so we did.

What began on a frigid February morning in Springfield comes full circle 20 months later. What first seemed possible on January 3, the night of the historic Iowa caucus, is now a certainty. A man and a movement that inspired millions and millions of Americans, young and old, rich and poor, black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American, gay and straight, blue- and white-collar, Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western, has ended in victory. After eight dark and depressing years under George W. Bush, a man who represents the worst of America, and who was never elected to begin with, America has elected - decisively - a man who represents the best in all of us, at home and abroad.

For months, I've dreamt about it, hoped about it, wished for it, prayed for it. And last night, 63 million Americans joined me - joined us - in electing Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States.

This is a victory for all Americans - Democrats, Republicans and everyone else - as well as for everyone - everyone - in the world. The election of a relatively inexperienced black Democrat with a Swahili first name and a Muslim last name is just... well, it cannot be put into words, try as I or anyone might. Barack Obama, coming from nothing, with every odd stacked against him, has risen to become the next leader of the free world.

Whether you voted for him or not, share with me in the magnitude of this moment. Embrace the wonderful leap forward America has taken. In the history of this nation, we have achieved so much. But this, in my view, tops it all. It beats everything because we have finally, after centuries of strife, overcome the original sin with which this country has dealt throughout its entire history - the sin of race. Less than a generation ago, it was illegal for white people to marry black people. It was illegal in certain places for blacks to sit in the same places as whites. And not too long ago in the history of this earth, black people were slaves in America, denied the basic human rights to which we are all entitled.

Today, with the election of Barack Obama, we are all Americans, united as one, more than ever before. Gone are the old barriers of race and ideology and cultural warfare. The skinny guy with the funny name, the young liberal Democrat with a black father and a white mother, the man born in Hawaii, educated in Indonesia, California, New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts, will be the next president. Remarkable, and a victory for all of us.

I am reminded of what Bobby Kennedy said the night Martin Luther King was assassinated exactly 40 years ago: "Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country, and for our people."

Yes, let us dedicate ourselves to that. We are already well on our way, and for that I am proud, exhilarated and eternally grateful.

Yes we can, and so we did - all of us, together. Hope has triumphed over fear, love prevailed over hate, and unity outdid divisiveness. It's a beautiful day in America, thanks to these two wonderful, wonderful words:

President Obama.


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