There are moments and events that are so full that they defy description; words fail, language limps and there are not enough adjectives. And pity the poor writer who feels compelled to make the attempt to put it into words. Last night in America, we had such a moment.
Old enough to have been aware during the 1960's, I recall the marches and the assassinations, the riots and the killings. I grew up in a time when those who would use the "N" word, did so with impunity. And a fight between teenage boys was termed a "racial incident" by the school administration rather than just the usual teenage stupidity. And I can't help but believe that just beyond the veil, untold numbers of those who died, perhaps without hope of this day ever arriving, are proud of what we, as a people, did yesterday.
And I consider the spirit of all of those whose participation enabled this to happen. All of those regular people, like myself, who contributed whatever they could in money or time so that hope could have its day. And then backed up their commitment by standing in long lines to fulfill their sacred civic duty by voting. We Americans like to think of ourselves in terms of our highest ideals; liberty, democracy, equality. And, in the past, we have all too often succumbed to giving these ideals mere lip service. Yesterday, we collectively not only remembered who we are, but acted on it. We stood up to say that we care what happens to each other. That hope is stronger than fear. And that, if we bind ourselves together, we can accomplish great things.
As I listened to how people around the world held their breath with us and felt happy for us, I felt profoundly grateful that we are now a step more closely linked to the family of man. As I received the congratulations of friends and acquaintances from the Middle East and Africa and Canada and Europe, I felt so proud of our country and of my small contribution to making this come about.
While watching Barack's speech last night, I saw a man who, while happy, was fully aware of the heavy responsibility he had just shouldered. I saw a good man, a thoughtful man, a man who has just sacrificed so many of the daily, mundane joys usually enjoyed by husbands and fathers across this country for the sake of this country. And I am filled with the deepest respect for and gratitude to him for this. And, I believe, that just as we came together to elect him, we must stay together to work for the hopes and dreams that we all voted for yesterday. We cannot send him on his way and expect him to do all the work. That is not what this is about. That is not what America is about. We must continue the effort well past January 20, 2009 and make our aspirations a reality for ourselves, our children and for those who follow us. We've picked up the gauntlet along with Barack and we can not put it down again. Last night's exuberance cannot be allowed to become today's complacency.
There is much for us yet to do. It's time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Teacher Voices: Stewart Matthews - Here's another post in my continuing series on teacher voices. I'm interviewing some of my former students who have gone on to become teachers. In this po...
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