After many weeks of wait and worry I positioned myself in front of the television, antacids in hand, for one last night of extreme anxiety. The night unfolded much in the way that many polls said they would, but even though I had studied those polls for months, I began to realize that I was wholly unprepared for what was happening. I sat with family and frantically called friends as each state was called for Obama, yelling and cheering when the toss-ups went his way. Then the big announcement came, President-elect Barack Obama. I cheered, celebrated, thought how great it will be to have a democrat back in the White House, and I assumed that the night would end on that note, but as I stood watching in awe of the hundreds of thousands celebrating the election, I realized what that night truly meant for us as a country.
Nations are built upon two things, ideas and hard work. This nation was built on some of the most beautiful and noble ideas the world has ever known, but much of the work was done through a means that is in direct opposition to those ideas. America was built upon the backs of slaves, there is no way to deny it and we should never forget it, but we have often looked back upon that period as a sad, solitary chapter of our nation's history. This is no longer the case; the impact of Barack Obama's win has sent ripples through our history, changing how we view ourselves. That tragic chapter now becomes part of an almost inconceivable story, one that begins very sorrowfully with the enslavement of many, then moves forward with the hard work and determination of those who were in name free, but who still had to fight for their rights in the face of violent opposition, and now ends with the incredible: the election of an African-American man to the highest office in the land.
We see history often, but sadly that history is usually tragic: 9/11, Katrina, the war in Iraq, this is the history of my generation, but Tuesday we had a different kind of history being made. We saw joyous and inspirational history; we saw the incredibly happy ending to a long and mostly sad story. I believe that this will be the defining historic moment of my generation, and as I watched I saw the tears and heard the words of many, and I wept too because I began to realize what this all said about us as a people; not only who we are, but where we come from and where we are going. The old story is over, and it's not simply because we elected a black man as president. Rather, it is in the fact that we elected a man to the presidency that happens to be black. The issue of race did not play a key role throughout the campaign; instead issues like the economy, the wars, national security, etc. were at the forefront of political conversation. Barack Obama was not elected because of his race or in spite of it; the amazing thing about this election is that America elected him solely based upon the content of his character and not the color of his skin, his presidency is the ultimate fulfillment of Dr. King's dream.
We ended the old story, and we watched together as the new one began. In the old story we were a divided and a hypocritical nation, one that spoke of liberty and opportunity for all but only gave it to some. However, in the new story we are united, we are one nation that tells all its children that anything is possible, and means it; one nation that provides opportunity for all Americans. We have a chance now to write more of this new story; it is at this time that we can set a precedent on how to treat each other and progress together. It is in the new story that I wept, because it is no longer about black, white, brown, or any color America; it is about a united America. There were tears of pain for all the suffering that the black community endured throughout our history in order for us to finally get to this point, but there were also tears of joy for our new united community that seeks to move forward together. This does not mean that we have reached a perfect point in race-relations; undoubtedly we have much work to do. Nor does this mean that the injustices of the past have somehow been erased or atoned for, that would be impossible, but we can begin to recognize now that together we can create a new way of thinking wherein we are one people, divided by nothing.
Today we write the new story of America. Today we are all sons and daughters of America, and we all share a national history. Today those slaves are not just the ancestors of African-Americans; they are all of our ancestors, because they are the forefathers who built this nation and without whom we would not have the America that we now do. Today the struggles of the black community are not solely their struggles, they are our struggles. Today, we embrace in Barack Obama not just a new president, but a new understanding, that white America and black America are part of the same America. Today we acknowledge and give our resounding admiration, as a nation, to all those who fought so hard for so long so that this day, once thought impossible, could come to be. Today we celebrate with those who now know that the hope and the opportunity of America are for them as well. Today we are a new America, one that lives up to its ideals, and proves once again that it is the greatest nation on earth.