Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celebrating Obama

It took me a long time to give up the dream of President Hillary Clinton. I wanted to see this smart, strong woman take up the reins and be President of the United States. It pained me to see that her womanliness became more of an issue than the economy or immigration or even the War in Iraq. She was too tough for some and too soft for others. The issues of the day never seemed as important as who she was. Or who her husband was.

I never fell in love with Barack Obama. His charm still alludes me. But I voted for him because I believed on most fronts, his values and mine are the same. No one agrees with me on everything, so I can't fault him for that. But in this time of fear and uncertainty, he offers hope and an open mind and the promise that things may be bad for a while, but they will get better.

I was proud to be an American today. I watched the inauguration on a large screen at a community center with 200 public housing residents. I was one of few white people in the room. The joy and the passion of these people was palpable. You could almost see it like a mist in the air. There were tears and songs and loud shouts throughout the inaugural address. It was like a church service, and we were all worshipping a spirit that would unite us.

One gentleman in a wheel chair with a tank of oxygen attached to it told me that "Obama's election makes me want to breathe again." He told me of the many times he had been turned down for a job, turned down for a small business loan, turned down for so many things because he was black. And today, he watched a black man become Presidents of the United States. He is 65 years old and never thought he would live to see this day.

This election was a triumph for all of us. For the first time in since the 60s and early 70s, we were totally engaged in the political process. We stripped off our coat of cynicism and argued about Hilliary and Obama and McCain. And, although there was so much rancour, in the end we came together and celebrated today's miracle on the Mall.

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