A Year After Iowa

02/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The improbable, the unimaginable, the unthinkable...and today, the reality. Already, memories of, if anything, an unprecedented 2008 campaign.

One year ago across the Hawkeye State on that frigid January 3rd, Barack Obama's long-shot presidential bid grew a political heartbeat. "Obama wins Iowa as candidate for change," read

And it was the thousands of first-time Iowan caucus-goers, native high school and college students, who laid the groundwork for a winning national campaign. Obama's victory speech was compelling to observers on both sides of the aisle--his decisive win as a testament, he suggested, to the hope and change Americans can believe in.

But on this January night--at this defining moment in history--you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do. You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year, 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches; in small towns and big cities; you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.

We hear time and again, Iowa is about grassroots apparatus. But perhaps, more succinctly, it's about the lives of real people. And without a galvanized, electrified generational uprising, Chief Justice Roberts would not be swearing in President-elect Obama on January 20th.

Let us historians and journalists--young and old alike--never forget that a new generation of Americans decided the fate of Iowa, and more than any one state's electoral votes in the general contest, passed the torch to the next President.

A year after Obama swept through Iowa in magical fashion to stun the political establishment, he is less than twenty days away from being inaugurated the 44th POTUS. What was a wild premise to many just one year ago is now a Presidential transition, a new Cabinet, and a new First Family. And thus far, the transition has proven one of the smoothest in history.

Of course, Obama's election was a defining moment in transcending the nation's deep-rooted racial barriers and embarking on a new progressive bi-partisan agenda. But was it completely improbable, unimaginable, and unthinkable just a year (or two) ago?

Not if you identified the soaring interest in the political process among young people, or the lasting attention the election garnered on college campuses and in high school classrooms.

And perhaps not if you read Jeff Zeleny's blog post chronicling Obama "storming into Iowa" in late March 2007. Three observations from Zeleny's post below: (1) Obama was poised to use the Internet to revolutionize campaigning, (2) heartland voters greeted him as a serious candidate from whom they expected and got serious answers, and (3) at least one voter envisioned and asked about the prospect of an Obama Cabinet.

He took questions from a crowd of about 50 people who were positioned on the set of a made-for-the-Internet show. If Mr. Obama was hoping to use the forum to emphasize his early objections to the Iraq war, his audience did not make it easy, asking about health care, the federal deficit and campaign finance reform. It was about 45 minutes into the session before someone asked a question relating to the topic that it is--at least partially--responsible for his on-line popularity.

Mr. Obama called for the final question.

"Do you know enough honest, intelligent people to fill your cabinet?" a woman asked.

He laughed. And without breaking for much of a pause, he declared: "You know, I do!"

From Obama's naturally confident reply, maybe we should have known all along.