Chicago is my home town and President-elect Barack Obama delivered his knock-out punch acceptance speech in a setting that was emotionally charged. He chose a fitting venue.
He spoke in Chicago's sprawling downtown Grant Park. To many around the world this was just another open-air, grand venue punctuated by pillars. But Grant Park is an important symbol to my generation. It was where, during the Democratic convention in 1968, a demonstration by thousands of anti-Vietnam protesters, gay activists, civil rights leaders and others turned into a globally televised police riot.
Hippies and others were chased down alleys and beaten, mass arrests were made and full-blown, state-sanctioned violence was witnessed by the world in their living rooms. It was one of America's biggest black eyes and something that the then-Mayor Richard Daley remained unapologetic about. The footage was devastating to the image of the United States as the world's first and most dynamic democracy. The war didn't end for years. I immigrated to Canada, a country I also love, permanently as a direct result of the war.
And last night, there it was and I cried. Chicago's Grant Park was filled to the brim with half a million happy, cheering Americans from every socio-economic slice of America's multicultural society. It had become, after two long generations, the backdrop to the most important presidential ascension in the history of the United States. To the world, the symbolism was not obvious. To those of us who knew the past, the symbolism was very emotional. Jesse Jackson was shown with tears streaming down his face. One of the world's greatest and most beloved entertainers, Oprah, was beaming in the crowd to hear her friend and fellow activist Obama address the world.
For Obama, it was squaring the circle with his mother, a pioneering and tolerant boomer from Kansas who married and had a child with an African, an illegal action in some southern states. Obama wrote in his first book that it had taken years for him to learn how to distance himself from the "drama of the baby boomer generation" of his mother. He not only acquired the poise and distance, but he took that drama last night to a more evolved and temperate level.
I'm not going to indulge in how great a President I believe he will become. But last night he singlehandedly turned the "whole world is watching" mantra shouted by thousands of beaten and bruised protesters in 1968 into a global triumph. It was the globalization of joy and everyone will remember exactly where they were when they realized a man of mixed race and humble beginnings won the vote of confidence to accede to the most powerful job on the planet.
Diane Francis blogs daily.
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