I wept last night when CNN called the election. I had a grin on my face and my hands over my mouth and my eyes welled up with tears as I saw the joyous faces of the American people in bars, churches, parks, streets and stadiums. Something glorious had happened. It wasn't just a Democrat coming back into office after such a long, long, long drought of George W. Bush. It wasn't just the fact that he is immensely intelligent and informed and seems to be all the things Bush isn't. It wasn't just the fact that the country will now go in a new, hopeful, wonderful direction. It wasn't just the end of the "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality that has dominated the last 8 years. It wasn't just that the man who could do all these things and bring all this change is black. It was all those things... and the fact that the American people voted him in. They voted for the black man. They voted for an intelligent man who could bring change. His win had nothing to do with his family connections, or how much money he had, or any sort of bartering. It was just good, old-fashioned, best man winning.
I walked to work this morning with the sun shining, and it was 18 degrees outside! In Toronto! In November! (For those who don't read Celsius, that's about 65 degrees, which is unseasonably warm for Toronto at this time of year; our weather is very close to that of New York City.) It was as if Mother Nature had decided, "Hey, I want in on this, too!" I walked up the quiet street where I park my car behind my office, which is just far enough away from the busy street where my office is located that you can walk in peace for a few minutes before entering the busy building. The leaves were falling from the trees. I reached up and caught one. I could swear I could hear Louis Armstrong singing, "What a Wonderful World," and then realized it was in my head. And then I realized: I'm in a freakin' movie. A cheeseball movie where the impossible happens and it had a crazy happy ending and the sky turns blue and the sun shines through the clouds and everyone is smiling. I'm in a Gene Kelly movie. No, wait, a Disney movie. I half-expected a little cartoon bird to flutter down and land on my shoulder.
Honestly, I've never felt like this for as long as I can remember. I'm sure I felt pure, unadulterated joy as a child many times, but this morning, it was different. It was like racism had been obliterated. (I know it hasn't -- not even close -- but for one brief, shining moment, it had been.) It was like the world was a good, wholesome, happy place. I felt like I could say to my children, "The world is fair. Good things come to good people. You can do or be whatever you want to be." and not be lying. IMAGINE.
I wished Martin Luther King Jr. could have witnessed today. Or Rosa Parks. Or John Lennon. Or Barack Obama's grandmother.
I'm a big fan of Dave Chappelle, and he did a brilliant stand-up film for HBO a few years ago; it was probably 1999 or 2000. In it, he does a bit where he talks about how a black man will never become president. The bit goes on for a while, giving all the reasons, and it's very funny. Yet now, only a few short years later, that joke seems so old and dated, like it's a scene from Mad Men.
I watched the speeches this morning on CNN. I thought John McCain's was eloquent, wonderful, and beautiful. I was discussing it with my brother and with my dear friend K. and we all agreed that this was the John McCain who had entered the election. This was the man about whom I'd said, "Hey, I'd be happy if the Republican won this time, because the man is pretty awesome."
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit -- to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now -- (cheers, applause) -- let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)
Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer in my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day, though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.
I think if he'd chosen a different running mate, his campaign wouldn't have devolved into the circus that it did. McCain deserved better than that. You can go back through my posts, and you'll see I never mocked McCain. It was that running mate of his that was the joke. And, by extension, his major flaw was that he'd chosen her. The thought that she actually thinks she could run in 2012 is shocking to me. As my brother said, let her have her own talk show. Now THAT she could probably do well at, and I mean it.
And then Obama took the stage. I felt a wave of joy wash over me as they showed that audience, and the looks on their faces. It really, truly felt like a new day had arrived. And his speech, delivered in his trademark way, was perfect:
This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Obama has the weight of the world on his shoulders right now. Millions of people are looking at him with their faces turned upwards, eyes wide and hopeful, hoping he will carry them to the Promised Land. That's a big task for anyone. He'll soon have to follow through on some of the promises he has made. But for now, let's just bask in this. I'm basking in the fact that I have two children, ages 1 and 4, and they will never remember a time when a black man was NOT president. Imagine! That fact alone has put a spring in my step all day.
And now I'll share with you a story I've told everyone who will listen today. My daughter, who is 4, watched the speeches with me this morning (I had them on my PVR). I wanted her to know how important and amazing this was, and I tried to explain it to her. She didn't understand what he had won, exactly, and asked me if it was a race, and I said yes, you could call it that. I told her this man was very important. She asked why. I said because only a few years ago, silly people believed you shouldn't be able to choose your leader if you had dark skin. And now, a man with dark skin had BECOME that leader. Isn't that amazing? I asked her. She said yes, and even though she didn't quite get how momentous this was, she could tell it was important by the look on my face (usually she's begging for Little Einsteins in the morning, but she seemed very interested in what I was watching instead). But this was my favourite part of the exchange:
Her: Why are all those people cheering for him?
Me: Because he is going to bring change for all of them, and it’s change they all need.
Her: Why don’t they have any money?
Me: [???] They have money, hon.... what do you mean?
Her: Well, if they have money, then why is he going to give all his change to them?
Out of the mouths of babes. :)
I disabled the comments on my last two posts, just because I didn't want any Anonymouses coming on and trampling on these happy times. Thank you to everyone who took the time to actually email me with positive, nice emails. I'm going to leave the comments open on this one because I would love for you to share with me your thoughts on this day. I hope the negative people will just keep away on this one.
Again, thank you America. The world is applauding you today.
Thanks for listening.