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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 15, 2024
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President Obama: Reason to Hope

Nov. 6, 2008 – As I canvassed the Mount Auburn area of Cincinnati, Ohio on Saturday with my son, grandson and daughter-in-law, I saw in a way I had not before the overwhelming potential a Barack Obama win had for healing our country. People in the mostly-black neighborhood we trekked with our clipboards, handouts and data opened their doors wide – happy to see us. Happy to talk to us. Happy to hope with us. Nowhere did we meet suspicion or fear. By morning’s end we were giddy with anticipation and brotherly love.
Three days later, as I walked from the East Village to West in New York City – in the wee hours of Wednesday morning after the American people had chosen Barack Hussein Obama to lead them through the next four years – I was again struck by the potency of this moment in history as I observed a couple of young people – dressed in the standard Navy blue hoodies and pushing bicycles – burst into a refrain of the Star Spangled Banner. On the corner, a young black man, tears rolling down his cheeks, spoke completely without embarrassment to a friend on his cell phone.
Earlier in the evening, as I sat holding hands with my oldest friend from high school channel surfing for results, we could here screams of joy from the surrounding apartments and restaurants as one important state after another turned blue.
And then the declaration – more quickly than we could have dared to hope just seconds after the polls closed on the West Coast – Barack Obama is the next president of the United States.
We waited through John McCain’s graceful concession speech, through the pundits and images of crowds in Grant Park, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square, longing to hear our next president – an unparalleled orator – speak.
Finally – after what seemed a lifetime — he took the stage along with the specters of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy and invited us to join together and make a commitment to do the hard work that will be required to repair the terrible damage wrought over the last eight years.
As he told the story of the 106-year-old woman voter he had met that morning, chronicling the unimaginable changes she had seen in the last century, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that the seeds of community activism and public protest planted in the sixties, had, after all, born fruit.
In that one moment, all the years of frustration and finally despair, when I could no longer see what possible good all of our Vietnam protestations, all of our demands for equality, honesty, and love and forgiveness had done, when I was so disgusted and disengaged I no longer considered myself an American, I suddenly knew we had come full circle. Barack Obama, progressive and from a humble, multi-cultural background, raised by his grandparents – and an African American – was the proof that our battle for the America we believed in had finally been won.
Never in my lifetime has any president had to carry so many expectations into the Oval office. Never has so much ridden on one man’s abilities and actions. Many are quick to implore us to limit our expectations. "He can only do so much."
My grandson – who canvassed with me on Saturday – will be 6 years old when President Obama completes his first term. When I consider the exponential changes that take place in those four years from 2 to 6, I have every reason to hope. And when you add that to the groundwork done by progressives over the last forty years, the road back to peace, fiscal responsibility, political integrity and world-wide respect, may not be so rough or long after all.

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