Thursday, November 06, 2008

Congratulations, Mr. President

I love the political process and the strong emotions it stirs up in us as we renew and refine our individual values. This last presidential election has been historic on a number of levels. Regardless of anyone's personal feelings, we now have our first African American President. Reading over the speeches by the candidates after the dust had settled, I appreciated that both candidates gave this election its proper context.

From Senator McCain:

“In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving. . . .

“Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

“These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

“Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans.”

From President-elect Obama:

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. . . .

“Let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. . . .

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President, too.”

The word “change” has as many possibilities, both for good and for ill. Having a new President means that things get shaken up, cobwebs get swept away, new rivalries and alliances get formed, and the wheels of history roll on. We will never again be a country where someone can cynically say, “Oh, yeah, anyone can be President (except if you’re Black).” That means something. Regardless of your political leanings, an old, old gate has swung on its hinges just a little bit, and the notion that “all men are created equal” has been verified again. The next time a Black man or woman runs for President, it won’t be such a big deal, and we will be more free to genuinely examine that person’s credentials in ways questions of race have impeded us before. And yet, we still live in a politically racialized country. An editorial by Shelby Steele, a conservative author who happens to be Black, highlights some of the tensions that remain and that continue to need resolution in American racial politics in the wake of Mr. Obama’s victory (click here for the link).

For one, I choose to be hopeful in the wake of an Obama presidency. I make the deliberate choice to believe that people of goodwill will choose to work together and that things will work out in the end, fully aware that things often work out in unexpected and surprising ways. Obama is neither the Messiah nor the anti-Christ. He’s the President, and we have the ability as a nation to make his being the President something positive and meaningful.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Your post inspired me, truly. Thanks.