In the next 200 years, wars will come and go, the economy will recover and crash and recover again, and the geopolitical landscape will morph repeatedly, as it always has. But people will still remember Barack Obama as a legendary historical figure worldwide, centuries from now, because of his single most revolutionary accomplishment: being elected.
Not only is Obama the first black president elected in a white majority country -- a massive accomplishment in itself -- he is also a black man who was elected with a last name that rhymes with Osama and the middle name Hussein. With less than two years as a junior US senator, Barack Obama went up against virtually impossible odds when he decided to run for president: he ran against the royal establishment of the Democratic party, the Clintons -- not just one, but two of them, one being a wildly popular ex-president. He earned the endorsements of both the brother and the daughter of President John F. Kennedy along the way. Then, after defeating the Clintons, he ran against an a celebrated American war hero, John McCain -- and won again.
Obama is the only son of a first-generation immigrant to be elected to the presidency in modern history. He is the product of an interracial marriage, which was illegal in many states until he was six years old. He is the first anti-war candidate to be elected at a time of war.
His election also reflected unprecedented changes in the socio-politics of the country. Richmond, Virginia was the most permanent capital of the Confederacy. Virginia hadn't voted for a Democrat since 1964, when Obama was three years old. Neither had Indiana. For the first time in 44 years, it was Obama -- a black northern liberal Democrat -- who turned both of those states blue, not Carter or Clinton. Although Obama is the first northern-state liberal to be elected to the presidency since Kennedy, he is, unlike Kennedy, an almost entirely self-made man who did not come from a wealthy, politically well-connected family.
The impact of Obama's election stretches far beyond even what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the "fierce urgency of now." It goes beyond race and beyond policy issues. It's about overcoming improbable odds and going against the grain, shattering that "real world" myth, and redefining -- or de-defining -- reality.
Even if he turns out to be an average president, Obama will be remembered worldwide hundreds of years from now as a man who changed the way the world looked and thought, simply by being elected against a set of seemingly insurmountable odds that had statistically and historically been stacked against him.
And even if the Nobel Peace Prize is premature -- which it probably is -- it is also very prescient.
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