Science tells us the earth is over 4.7 billion years old, with all of modern history and human civilization only occurring within the last 5,000 to 10,000 years. Said differently, if all of time were compared to a 12 month calendar, all of mankind's recorded history would have occurred on the last second, of the last minute, of the last day of that year.
Using our universal time-line as an analogy, everything we know as humans has transpired at 11:59PM on December 31st...all in less than one second. All of the world's cultures, languages, countries, empires, governments, religions, stories, songs and dreams that have ever come and gone -- and those that are still here have all happened within this "one second before midnight".
In this one blink of an eye, millions of species have appeared and disappeared off the face of the earth. One species however, evolved beyond the others, and learned to walk upright and communicate. In very short order, this same species went on to build pyramids, paint the Sistine Chapel, crack the genetic code of our DNA, and fly faster than the speed of sound. Through their many stages of evolution, and while struggling to survive, this human species continually re-defined itself and its rightful place in the universe. As they journeyed on their many different paths through time, they created many forms of culture and society. Along the way, each of these societies offered their own version of economic, political, judicial and religious belief systems. This resulted in the birth of numerous tribes within the species -- each with their own language, their own customs, their own government, and their own Gods. Many of these forms of authority were based on birth-right, legend, inherited power, blind faith and legacy.
Whether one believed the species was a "risen ape" or a "fallen angel", one thing was irrefutable: most of all human conflict had arisen through man-made institutions....like borders, governments, religions, cultures, languages, and armies. Yes, the very same species that found the cure for polio, also created the atomic bomb. The very same species that sculpted the Statue of David and painted the Mona Lisa, also enslaved their fellow man. The very same species that wrote Hamlet and landed a man on the moon, also allowed a holocaust and several genocides to occur against their own species. History shows us that this continuous battle between good and evil has raged for thousands of years -- with many of the ideas, cultures, governments, Gods and societies having come and gone in the flash of this one second before midnight.
Then, a little over 230 years ago, an idea resurfaced in a place called America. An idea that stated all men are created equal; One that had the audacity to suggest that all people on earth are born with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- regardless of their race, religion or creed. This idea called "democracy" was reborn in a country whose people were not bound by blood, religion, name, legacy, race or history. It was based on the principle that any man could go as far as his talents, hard work, and dreams would take him...and not because of any pre-ordained birth-right or privilege. It stressed the notion that we are bound more by our similarities, and less by our superficial differences. It allowed for the "battle of ideas" between humans to peacefully co-exist.
It recognized that that all people are free to worship and pray to their chosen God without fear of recrimination. It accepted the radical view that not all competing perspectives were mutually exclusive...and that it was OK to "agree to disagree." That compromise did work, and that "winning" was not a zero sum game. It acknowledged that the whole was much greater than the parts, and that one plus one did equal three. It celebrated the idea that diversity was something to be cherished, and not ignored. And it proved that given a chance, people from different backgrounds could live and prosper together in harmony -- whether they were black or white, Catholic or Muslim, straight or gay, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican. It showed the rest of the world that a mosaic of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural peoples could create a common bond based on the principles that we are all the same. And that these same people from many different backgrounds and ethnicities could actually develop a functioning and cohesive society. One that has now gone on to become the strongest and most prosperous on the face of the earth. Above all, it promised hope and freedom to everyone, and left us all with the conclusion that a simple idea -- in its time -- was stronger than all the armies in the world. An idea so strong, that it has now migrated to most of the 200+ countries that now exist on planet earth.
Given the history of our species and its tribal origins, it is nothing short of a miracle that this idea has survived several major wars and 200 years of challenges, conflicts and criticisms. And while it's endured its fair share of growing pains, this 230 year old experiment called democracy is still working. Its quite obvious that democracy is, and always will be, in a state of "becoming." Far from perfect, this outrageous concept of "equality for all" is the best political model we humans have developed thus far...and probably explains why Winston Churchill once said: "Democracy is the worst form of Government...except for all the others."
Today, we find ourselves on the 'morning after' a momentous occasion at the birthplace of this re-invented concept. The 44th elected leader of the country that re-introduced democracy has taken office. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama took the oath to protect, preserve and defend this country -- and correspondingly, its stated ideals of freedom and democracy for all. In essence, he is the steward and custodian of this fragile concept we call democracy. A man of great diversity himself, it seems very fitting that he would be chosen to represent and lead the most diverse nation on the planet. With white grandparents from Kansas, and a black father from Kenya, Barack Obama embodies the universal truth that all humans are created equal. Here was a man whose own bloodlines proved to him at a very early age that our similarities were much greater than our superficial differences. As all humans now grapple with the many challenges of the 21st century, we are filled with hope that this man, together with this country, this people, and this concept, can continue to "perfect the union" ......and insure that this democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people will not perish from this earth.
As the chosen leader for the most powerful nation on earth, this man knows that his actions and decisions affect not only the 300 million humans who live in America, but the full family of man sharing our planet. Here we are at one second before midnight.....six billion of us navigating our own destinies on this fragile blue marble floating in the vast expanse of the universe. Each of us with our own hopes, dreams and fears.....all asking ourselves: what will we do with this "one brief shining moment" we've all been given? Using our universal timeline, will we squander the lessons learned from the first 59 seconds of our existence? Will we waste it away on petty differences and inconsequential disagreements? Will we focus on the small things that drive us apart, or heed those that bring us together? The answers are clear, simple and right in front of us. We are ALL borne from the same tree of life. We breathe the same air and share the same sun. We dream the same, we eat and sleep the same, we laugh and cry the same, and we all want the same things: peace, harmony, security and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.
At one second before midnight, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because we have elected a man who based his campaign on the universal truths that all men are created equal. I am hopeful because we have elected a man -- who as a voracious reader and student of history and culture -- understands we as a species are more alike than different. I am hopeful because he understands we all need to know where we came from in order to know where we are going. I am hopeful because we now have a leader who with his gift for curiosity, is comfortable enough in his own skin to ask probing questions and solicit different perspectives...even from those with whom he would disagree. I am hopeful because we have a leader who by virtue of his unique background, represents the family of man...and because of this, fully understands "we are they, and they are us".
At one second to midnight, a chorus of 65 million voices spoke up and elected a man who knows that for better or worse, we all belong to this one fragile human race. As such, we are all connected to one another...and always will be. We've elected a man that best represents our continuing evolution and commitment to democracy...and to this crazy idea that all men are created equal.
As the universe's clock approaches midnight, ALL of mankind has renewed faith that we as a global village will endure. Despite our barbaric feats and noble actions over the past 10,000 years, the better angles of our soul have triumphed. Thousands of years from now, humans will look back at this point in our evolution -- at this "one second before midnight" -- and be grateful that this generation did the right thing, at the right time...and for the right reason...
At one second before midnight, I am hopeful again.....