As I’ve posted before, regardless of one’s politics or feelings about the outcome of our 2008 Presidential election, there’s one thing that can be said about President-elect Barack Obama: the man can write.
The first sentences of his remarks on election night, as people screamed and sobbed and hugged each other, gave the inspiration that so many of his speeches have evoked:
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.
It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
It surprised me not one whit to be moved by his speech on election night. But what has pleasantly surprised me is how many essays I have read since Tuesday night that have equally moved me. All of the excerpts that follow invoke the same pride, inspiration, and love of country of Obama’s speeches:
Yet something changed on Tuesday when Americans — white, black, Latino, Asian — entrusted a black man with the power and responsibility of the presidency. I always meant it when I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I always meant it when I sang the national anthem at ball games and shot off fireworks on the Fourth of July. But now there’s more meaning in my expressions of patriotism, because there’s more meaning in the stirring ideals that the pledge and the anthem and the fireworks represent.
A golden November day under a blue sky and an air of sweet amiability at the polls and at the end of the day, we elected the right guy, no doubt about it. Yes, we can and we did. A nation spread its wings and achieved altitude.
Maria Niles, in her PopConsumer blog, wrote:
My 21 year-old niece voted in her first presidential election. She will never know a different possibility – a time when only white men could lead this country. Where black people where considered anything less than fully and completely American even though this country was built on our backs and with our blood. My 94 year-old grandmother, our matriarch, who has been the keeper of our family’s oral history of slavery and escape is alive to see this moment. My cousin who traveled from the north to the south to be a freedom fighter in the civil rights movement is witnessing this history. My mother who spent days and months volunteering and making phone calls to participate in democracy and help make history is witnessing this moment. My father who fought for the country he chose to become a citizen of has been transformed and electrified by this campaign and he is witnessing this moment.
Perhaps Roger Cohen of The New York Times best expresses in his essay “Perfecting the Union” what I am feeling as I read these essays, as well as the words of President-elect Obama: that words matter:
America can mean what it says. It can respect its friends and probe its enemies before it tries to shock and awe them. It can listen. It can rediscover the commonwealth beyond the frenzied individualism that took down Wall Street.
I know, these are mere words. They will not right the deficit or disarm an enemy. But words count. That has been a lesson of the Bush years…
Obama will reinvest words with meaning. That is the basis of everything. And an American leader able to improvise a grammatical, even a moving, English sentence is no bad thing.