This Is What America Is About

02/06/2008 02:05 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nearly four years ago, as we were preparing to board a plane to go to Addis Ababa to meet our new daughter, I wrote to my family about the mixed feelings I was having.

It wasn't about having her come into our family, in that there was no hesitation. It was about bringing her here, to this great nation, this place that gave political refuge to my great grandfather, an agitator escaping the Tsar, and so many like him.

"Extraordinarily exciting," I told them, "though I am having some pangs of regret that I bring her here at this low point in our national story - it will be very hard to muster the pride I expected when I tell my child how we brought her, saved her, to this great place when it is at perhaps its least great point in the history of the republic."

That was in May 2004. How could I have known it would only get worse? How could I have known that my country would not only condone but participate in torture, that my country would spy on its own citizens, that it would turn on loyal public servants who called it on its lies, that dissent would be met with questions about patriotism.

And then there was tonight.

I have voted consistently in elections local and national (there are no small elections, nor large ones) without fail for nearly 30 years. I have never been prouder to cast a ballot than I was this morning, my children at my side.

I have never valued the franchise as much as I did today when I poked that hole in my ballot for Barack Obama. I had never before been so overwhelmed by history and pride and possibility that I cried in a voting booth, but then I've never felt before that so much was at stake, that a real change was in the wind.

I was, for the first time in my children's lives, able to look at them and tell them with conviction that there is hope that this country can once again become a beacon to the rest of the world. That with this primary, the final chapter of the terrible tragedy of the Bush years has been written. That the harm that has been visited on this country is about to be repaired.

It will be difficult for them to understand, I hope, how in my lifetime this nation had moved from segregation to elect a black man president. It's my dream that to them the naturalness of a black man - or a woman - as president marks the distinction between their generation and mine with the same shrug of "was it not always this way?" that the TV in the den marked the distinction between mine and my parent's.

I admire John McCain for his service and sacrifice to this country, and in another time I might have been persuaded to vote for him. But now is not his time.

History has spoken. We're on the cusp of a great wave that has the potential to wash clean the stain of the last seven years and restore the luster to this extraordinary country.

The final tally won't be in before I go to bed tonight, though as it stands now it seems clear that the nomination is still up for grabs.

But I'll nevertheless be able to look at my sleeping children before I turn in and know that when they awake I'll be able to tell them with pride that indeed anything is possible here. That we have finally reached a point where we can judge a person by the content of their character.

I'll be able to feel good about the last part of that note I sent to my family before going to Ethiopia four years ago, the part where I said, "in the long run I see her reveling in the opportunity and freedom we will continue to fight to maintain here. I see her becoming a great and proud American."

This Blogger's Books and Other Items from...