As I write this, they’re dancing in Grant Park in Chicago. Barack Obama has just been declared the winner of the Presidential election. But the real winner is the United States of America. Looking at the faces in the crowd, you see the face of America, every conceivable range of ages, races, ethnicities, orientations, styles of dress — you name it. The other thing you see if joy; pure, unrelieved joy. Cheers and smiles and dancing in the park, the same park where in 1968, it was mostly young students being beaten senseless by mostly-white policemen. Times have changed in deed. And, I am reminded, this is in marked contrast to the television screens filled with undisguised hatred that we saw at the Republican convention. I’m sure you will not be hearing Democrats saying that all Republicans should leave the country, as we frequently have heard from some (though certainly not all) Republicans.
Hope is a strange thing, fragile like the peace in Iraq; easily destroyed. Still, it’s a welcome feeling among the uncertainty of our times. Perhaps it really is possible to remain optimistic in the face of enormous problems. This will be one of the challenges facing President Obama. And I hope that the old John McCain finds his way back: the decent, thoughtful man who isn’t afraid to stand up for noble causes. We are, after all, going to need all the good minds, and John McCain has been among those before, and I hope will be in the future.
During this campaign, the country seems to have turned many corners. The idea of a woman, or a person of color running for President will never be an issue again (though some of the Muslim faith probably still has a problem). The use of personal smears and invoking God to get elected is probably (hopefully) dead and buried.
But right now, let’s take a moment to enjoy the great fortune of the country and remember the words of John Adams: united we stand. And tomorrow we can start working on the problems. I’m usually the cynic, but tonight, hey — ain’t it great to be an American?