12/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hot Flashes From the End of the Trail

On November 3, 2004, my friend, Elliot Quick, then a student at Brown, posted a sign on his door: "Go to your room America and think about what you did."

Apparently we did.

On the day after the election this year, my friend, Andrew Beaumont, a doctoral student at Oxford, posted this: "On behalf of the world beyond your borders: Welcome back, America. We've missed you."

Sam and I were in Grant Park in Chicago on election night. The last time we were there was during the police riot of 1968; one of the worst nights of my life, a night when I thought my country had deserted me. Forty years ago, I couldn't have imagined what happened this last Tuesday in that same park. Like most of you, I thought it was one of the most thrilling nights of my life. I even got to shake Obama's hand. It was a brilliant event with perfect weather in the most American of American cities.

Next to us among the crowds in front of the podium was Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine who first integrated Central High School. Beside him, was General Wes Clark. I told Clark how much I admired him and his campaign and with tears streaming down his face, he said, "That was just a lucky moment in time for me. This, this is history."

So many of you I write to worked tirelessly to make this happen. Jesse Peretz organized 100 people to canvass in Cleveland; David Hawk spent two-weeks telephoning in Pennsylvania; Judy Green walked the trailer parks of Fort Myers; Judy DeVries, Anne Dybwad and Hilary Goldstine spent a week in Richmond; Anne Nou and Mary Lou Randour spent ten days in Virginia doing data entry; Stephanie Braxton and Marilyn Melkonian joined thousands doing Election Protection; Jan Soderberg walked precincts in Colorado; Leo and Dorothy Braudy gave phone calling parties in Los Angeles; Susan Boreliz and Linda Gage went to Nevada; Thalia Tsongas Schlesinger to New Hampshire... and the check-out guy across the street at our Whole Foods came with us for a two-hour break to northern Virginia in order to make calls to undecided voters.

I could go on and on. I should go on and on. Every person on this list has made a difference, but none of you would keep reading if I inserted hundreds of names. Forgive me. Woody Allen said 90% of life is just showing up and you all did. You should all know each other. Trust me, you'd like to.

Whereas it would be totally presumptuous of me to thank anyone for working for Obama, an enormous number of you made financial contributions through us -- to Obama and other candidates we supported. Those contributions ranged from $12 to complete max-outs. We know that each of you gave what you could. For that, we do owe a huge thank you. Sam has a little gold lapel pin, given by the National Finance Committee. It's the most valuable piece of jewelry he owns and you bought it for him.

We're back in D.C. now and, as many have said, the real work is just beginning. But for the moment I'm holding on to my euphoria and still choking back tears.

My mother used to tell me she shook the hand of someone who shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln. "You're just two hand shakes away," she'd tell me. So this morning, I rushed over to the checkout guy at Whole Foods and asked him if he'd like to shake the hand that shook the hand of Barack Obama. "Oh, I shook Obama's hand a lot," he said. "I used to work at the gym he went to on Capital Hill." Disappointed, I left. I'd reached the corner of 15th Street when I heard him shouting "Hey, lady! Wait a minute!" He'd left his post and caught up with me. "I was thinking, I shook Senator Obama's hand, so, actually, I do want to shake the hand that shook the hand of President Obama."

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