As one of the millions who gave a bit of their time/money etc to team Obama, I was -- as I was as at the last two Presidential elections-- volunteering in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania for the election yesterday.
In my family, political activism was a tradition, and thanks to my parents, as a kid, I shook the hand of John F. Kennedy and attended the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic speech, "I have a dream..."
As a member of the sixties generation, whose vision of America was shattered by the three assassinations of that time, it was bitter indeed to witness/participate in the devolution of the last eight years.
Last April, when I heard Robert F. Kennedy Jr speak at a conference I reported on, I realized that those traumatic losses were alive in me to this day, making me fear to hope. I was moved as I heard the same Kennedy-esque leadership and brilliance, while feeling relieved that Bobby's throat problem (he speaks with a strained voice), would keep him out of public office and away from the risk of being assassinated. But now there's less reason to fear as the true guides and leaders can step up to serve and lead.
The hardest thing was to watch the public protestations of democracy-- while the authentic opportunity of democracy was progressively extinguished. That this should have occurred under the watch of my generation felt like a failure that overshadowed any accomplishment that I might personally attain. To watch the succeeding generations sink into a mindless apathy -- manipulated by media images-- was a total heartbreak to me.
So the greatest joy is to see the hope pass along to -- and be seized and carried by the next generations. As I have volunteered with them, as I engage with them on here on HuffPo, on Infent.com and on Facebook, as I saw them dancing for joy last night, it's a tremendous relief to know that whatever long road lies ahead, that the hope was passed along.
As I watched the television coverage of the election returns last night, I cried and rejoiced. For me, the most touching moment was to see the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who was undoubtedly the most powerful orator of my generation-- the link between King and Obama-- and whom I heard orate many times, standing in the crowd at Obama headquarters in Chicago, weeping.
I dedicate this poem to him and to a few recently passed proponents of inclusion whom I like to believe are cheering/helping from the beyond-- Studs Terkel, Paul Newman, and President-Elect Obama's grandmother:
Tonight I cried with Jesse Jackson.
Tonight I saw my hope redeemed.
Tonight the torch passed to the next generation.
Tonight we were a team.
Tonight we celebrate and dance en masse,
Say, hey, a leader with real class?
Can't you see Studs, Paul, and all just beam?
Yes, yes, YES, we can!"
Don't ever doubt the dream.
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