Saturday, November 08, 2008

The President Elect

Well I’m slow with my post election post due to far too many hours traveling this week but the good news is I’m not having to complain. I was in New York on Election Night and spent some time at the CNN and ABC street locations in Times Square. There were thousands of people watching the coverage on the streets. Any time a new state was shown with Obama in the lead a huge cheer was unleashed. To say the least it was exciting and incredible to watch.

Given that I had a full day of work the next day I left before the race was called, but from my hotel room 32 floors above street level I could hear the cheering when Obama was proclaimed the President Elect. Obama’s election is so much more than the election of an intelligent person who is willing to listen and educate themselves on an issue before taking a stand; it is a shift in how America views itself. We can now say that we are (attempting) to judge a person “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). The first time I truly understood that quote was in the early 90’s in college after hearing Shelby Steele speak at my school. He had just published a book The Content of Our Character and after hearing him and reading the book I realized that I had a somewhat “strange” world view. Having grown up in a school with court mandated desegregation I had always considered amongst my best friends blacks, whites and Hispanics. There were people of all races I liked and didn’t like and I made those judgments based on how well a person treated me.

I’ve learned that this view was lucky to have as a kid growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. I’ve realized this view is still lucky to have as an adult in 2008. After the election it seems more Americas are starting to judge by the content of character; though I’m sure we still have a long way to go. The most moving part of the evening for me was to see Roland Martin on CNN describing what the election was to him. He described and was moved to tears describing how important the election of a black man was to him and how lucky he was, as well; to be able to report on the election as another black man.

For me the good news is we are moving forward and have elected in Obama a man who can motivate and engage people in the process of democracy. The bad news is there is so much work to be done and our expectations are so high that no matter what Obama does he may not be as successful as we all hope. If you were engaged in this election at all, from any candidate’s standpoint give Obama help and support as he has a big challenge ahead of himself now and if he doesn’t succeed in making changes we will all fail.

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