Monday, January 19, 2009

Holiday


I got back from a weekend in the woods (and -- gasp! -- away from the internet!) early this afternoon. I've been unpacking and trying to get caught up in all the various forms of communication since then and all the while, in the background, I've been enjoying the coverage from DC. This really is an extraordinary moment in history and I'm often left breathless as I take it all in. Barack Obama represents so many levels of change -- not just a huge step toward becoming a post-racial country and a dramatic generational shift, but also, if Obama lives up to his promise, a whole post-partisan, post-petty paradigm that could really, truly make Washington a different place. We have a lot of badness to get through, there's no getting around that, but after so many years of divisiveness and cynicism (how can people who don't believe in government do a good job at running a government?), we can, hopefully, at least feel good about the process again.

I am thrilled at the thought that we have elected our first African-American president. That is a huge thing -- a breathtaking accomplishment, which takes us a long way toward becoming a true melting pot as a nation. But Barack Obama was not elected because he is a black man -- and that is the real transcendent matter here. A hundred years ago, many Americans would never have even considered the possibility that a black person might be superior to all other candidates for a job. But last November, millions of Americans of all shades chose the best person, not the black person, to fill the highest office in our land. It may be a fine distinction, but an important one nonetheless. We've finally reached that point described to us by Martin Luther King, Jr. -- we live in a nation where we have shown that people can be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin.

The really cool thing, though, is that this moment in time is about far more than inaugurating our first African-American president. It is about change and hope; thoughtful sacrifice and healing; innovation and progress. Barack Obama is many things -- one of which is the son of a Kenyan man -- but his accomplishments and failures as he governs will be about what he brings to the job, and not about what his parents brought to his conception. He has the potential to join that small number of exceptionally great presidents, bringing much-needed long-term change to the world. This is a point in time that might well end up being one of those major shifts in history that is only really visible from a distance. And we will have been here to see it.

3 comments:

June said...

Well said! I've been trying over and over to compose something that sufficiently captures what I'm feeling...what the world is feeling and have discarded each. You've succeeded. Thanks.

Sloms said...

phenomenally well put

Paige said...

Great post, Alice! Thank you...