Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can

Last night, like many others, I spent the later part of the evening in tears seeing Barack Obama become President. Such joy, such jubilation and a struggle of so many over decades to finally see an African-American in the White House. We truly have transcended.

Again, like many, after watching Barack’s energizing speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, I wondered, “why isn’t he running!” News commentators talked about the rising star in the Democratic Party. When others pleaded with him to run in 2006, we watched his humbled reaction saying he wouldn’t. But then he did, because so many people wanted him too. I had a crisis of conscience. I really did want Hillary to win the nomination. I admired the skill of Barack as an inspiring orator, but I trusted her experience. I knew her and what she stood for. And when she conceded to Barack, I couldn’t accept the answer that “at least she showed that it could be done…” It wasn’t enough for me.

I struggled with switching my vote to Barack. The debates changed that. Calm, cool, collected, he didn’t fall for the traps set out by Republican machine. And they set many, from Ayers to Marxism. He didn’t falter. He knew who he was and what he stood for and trusted that we could see beyond the fear and hate-mongering of the Right. To me, that’s the greatest showing of maturity. I was ready to elect him as president.

His greatest gift to us as Americans is belief. Belief in ourselves that we can create change. As he said last night, the victory doesn’t just belong to him but to all of us. What I found most significant in his speech, reminiscent of Kennedy, is that he emphasized that the work didn’t stop with him but required that to make the change we want, we all have to participate. It is true that it’s not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country. And we’ve seen our country taken over by the Right for the last 8 years because many of people who could vote didn’t. But yesterday they finally did, in record numbers. On The View today, Sheri Shepard, the African-American comedian, said she voted for the first time. She’s my age – 40 – and she’s never participated until now. And there are many like her, finally participating, taking action. We can discuss at length why African-Americans have become disaffected voters and the historical reasons that so many thought there could never be a black president. But the only way to change old beliefs is to replace them with new ones. He’s a true testament to: It’s not what people say that matters, it’s what you believe that counts. This is why I feel that Barack’s phrase last night, Yes We Can, resonated at not just a high inspirational level but at a high Universal level. It’s the highest truth that our beliefs create reality and by saying yes we can - we speak in the affirmative that we can have what we want. And to truly get what we want, we have to act on our beliefs.

In Barack’s speech last night he said that there’s a lot of work to be done and he needs us to do it. It won’t be easy and there’s an uphill battle. Is he laying the groundwork so that if he can’t fulfill his promises, we won’t be disappointed? I don’t think so. I think he’s harkening back to the earlier days of our Democracy when it was bestowed on all of us that we can lead ourselves. It’s up to us to look at our own lives and take action in it. He can give us a roadmap but if it’s not the one we want, he’s willing to listen. He isn’t a messiah – someone to take us to the Promised Land. That isn’t the role of this president. He’s a guide – someone who acts on the behalf of others’ wishes. It’s up to us to ask for what we want and our job is to discover what that is.

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