To state the obvious, this has been an historic week.
Our nation has entered a new era, for better or worse. Some of our citizens have been dragged into this era kicking and screaming, while others have rushed happily forward.
All week long I have been watching television reporters holding microphones in the faces of African Americans and saying, “Did you ever think you would live to see this day?”
It’s a fair question, I suppose, considering that 60 years ago President Obama would not have been allowed to drink from the same water fountain or sit in the same restaurant with people of the light-skinned variety.
Yet we still have not come all the way to the other side of that mountain of prejudice, because the fact that it is considered news indicates that skin color is still an issue.
The election of the president is a victory against prejudice to be sure. I do not wish to suggest otherwise. However, I think there is something much larger here.
There were millions of people, myself included, for whom Obama’s race was not the key issue.
When I cast my vote it was not for the first African American president in our nation’s history, it was for the man whom I believed would be the best leader.
There are plenty of folks in our area who have taken issue with that choice – a majority, in fact. Nevertheless, we are all still Americans and the majority of our people nationwide did choose our new president by an unquestionable margin, unlike the previous presidential election.
Time and time again when President George W. Bush was in power I heard people say in his defense, “He is our president and he deserves our respect.”
It is saddening, therefore, to hear some of those same people making hateful and disparaging remarks about our new president.
Be that as it may, the thing that gives me new hope about our president is not that he is black, but that he is brilliant and positive and strong.
On Tuesday as I watched and listened to his inaugural address, it occurred to me that it was the very first time in my life that I have heard a president give such a stirring speech.
I have heard that such things happened before I was born, but this is the first time I have witnessed it first hand. Let’s face it, few people in our age – perhaps in any age – are truly gifted orators.
It’s true, I am a writer and an English major, and maybe well-chosen words and good grammar mean more to me than they do to the average person. But it was more than just words – it was the strength and intention behind the words. It was the feeling conveyed by his delivery that he was not merely reading aloud from a teleprompter, but actually saying what he meant.
As far as I’m concerned, intelligence, poise, and a positive yet realistic attitude are everything we could ask for at this pivotal moment in American history.
President Obama takes the reins of this country at a time when the coach is careening out of control, heading for the cliffs. Perhaps he has taken on a job that is too much for any mortal man, but I have hope that if anyone can tame the unruly horses pulling us headlong to destruction, it is he.
Perhaps I am a starry-eyed idealist, but I am certain I am feeling much better today than the average cloudy-eyed pessimist.
Pessimism can cripple a person, and a nation, just as surely as polio can. After all, who wants to act if they are already pre-ordained to fail?
The only thing we can do collectively to win the day now is to step forward with a positive attitude, a determined demeanor, a willingness to work, and an eye on taking responsibility for ourselves and our own actions. Just like our new president.