A nightmare begins to end
Only one word: HOPE
November 6, 2008
What an amazing week this has been. In the midst of what has been a difficult year for our family, something wonderful and historical and inspiring has happened. In a time of hardship and difficulty for so many people around us, we have been given something we all needed - hope.
You are 2 1/2 years old, and most likely too young to remember this time. You won't remember Tuesday November 4. You won't remember going to the courthouse in the afternoon to get a replacement ballot so that I could vote. You won't remember running around, squealing and playing while I filled it out. You won't remember how we handed you the ballot so that you could slip it into the collection box. You won't remember running around your Grandma's house while election results flashed on the TV. You won't remember me hugging you as tears streamed down my face, and you probably didn't even notice that I was crying. Over the next few years, you will grow older and you will learn to recognize the face of our country, and the voice of our new leader. You will know Barack Obama as the first president you remember, and his leadership will be a way of life that I hope will continue as you grow up.
But right now, you are too small to know what and incredible thing has happened. Because you're too young to remember, I want to give you my memories of that day. You will read about it in the history books when you're in high school. You will learn about the day that America elected it's first African American President, but I want you to know what it felt like that day.
It felt amazing. Our country is young, less than 250 years old. In the grand scheme of things, it's just a baby. To think that in only 150 years we have gone from a time when Obama and his family would have been owned by other people to a time when a young black man can grow up to lead his country into tomorrow. I feel so proud that it brings me to tears. I am proud of the people in this country for standing up for what's right. For standing up for what they believe, for reminding politicians that our system CAN work. Our votes DO count. They count in a big way. Barack Obama's campaign slogan was 'Yes, we can' and on Tuesday we proved him right.
Four years ago, we stayed up into the night, anxiously awaiting election results, feeling more and more sad and angry every minute. The numbers went back and forth, up and down. We thought for sure that President Bush had been voted out. We were sure that this time, the voting machines would work, and that something great would happen. Four years ago, the leadership of our country was not elected by popular vote. It was taken over by a president who has run our country into the ground, taken our citizens into a horrible, seemingly endless war, and allowed corporations to dictate what is 'best' for our country. Four years ago, your father and I lost hope. We lost faith in the system that is supposed to allow us to take part in the policy and atmosphere of the world we live in. We stopped believing that we could make a difference.
Two days ago, we didn't have to wait. As soon as the polls closed on the west coast at 8:00, all the news channels announced it. Barack Obama was the next President of the United States of America. Instead of watching numbers so close (Kerry 252 Electoral Votes, Bush 286 Electoral Votes) that the election was decided by ONE state (Ohio), we watched Obama's numbers climb and climb until the tally was 364 for Obama versus 173 for John McCain. Two days ago, we let our guards down. We didn't spend hours waiting to find out who won, instead we knew before it was over. An hour later, our next President, Barack Obama took the stage to speak to us. Here is my favorite part of his speech, which represents the hope and amazement I feel today at our country's progress:
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.
And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.
At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can.
OBAMA: When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can.
OBAMA: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can.
OBAMA: A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.
And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.
Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can.
OBAMA: America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.
We were headed home before 10 PM, and as we got in the car, I asked your Dad to drive through downtown Bellingham even though you were tired and fussy and ready to go home. As we approached the heart of our town, we started to see people. Young people, walking, talking, excited, celebrating, cheering. There were people with signs. We honked the horn, our grins so wide our cheeks hurt. At a stoplight, we shouted a greeting to a young man on the corner with an Obama sign, and he ran over and high fived your Dad. There were people on bikes with signs. And there was something in the air, something jubilant, something wonderful - it was HOPE.
I wanted this change for you, Sam. I know that this is the beginning of a movement that will change the world. You will have the opportunity to grow up in a world better than the one that you were born into two years ago. By the time you are old enough to read and understand this, I hope that you won't even understand why electing Barack Obama was a big deal. I hope that you will grow up not to see race or sexual orientation, but just to see the amazing people who surround you. I have hope again, I have hope that this is the beginning of the world I want for my family, for you.
Sam, I hope that one day you will get to feel what I felt on Tuesday. I hope that you will get to feel what it is like to be part of history, to be part of a moment that changes the world for the better. I hope that you'll get the chance to raise your voice and tell the bad guys that they DON'T win, that you and your friends and neighbors want better for this world and you are going to make it happen whether they like it or not.
I love you Sam, and I can't wait for you to grow up so you can have your own hope, and change the world in your own way.