Real Patriotism

09/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ok. I'm 57 years old and cast my first vote in 1972--proudly, I will add--for George McGovern, but in the intervening 36 years I have rarely felt proud of my votes for Democrats, no matter how necessary they have been. There have been wonderful political moments: watching Geraldine Ferraro come to the podium as the Vice-Presidential Nominee in 1984; seeing Harold Washington elected twice as mayor of Chicago; Paul Wellstone's election to the Senate.

Last night, however, as Barack Obama took the stage, and I joined tens of millions of Americans in daring to hope for a far better America led by this most unlikely of Presidents, I felt something new and thrilling and profound. Watching the sea of American flags and placards calling for "change," and the weeping, joyous faces of my fellow citizens, I realized I was seeing the country I've longed to believe in for so long, but almost never get to experience. Suppressed longing leads to the self-protective cynicism we see everywhere in the media and in too much of the left. Barack Obama's candidacy has already opened the floodgates of genuinely patriotic yearning in millions--and it's a truly delicious feeling.

I have never felt more patriotic than I did last night. Or more grateful to be living in a historical moment. After 246 years of slavery, another century of legal segregation, and less than 50 years of legal freedom, we can now elect an African-American President of the United States. It's going to be a tough campaign, but finally one we can wage joyfully, proudly, patriotically, for the country we want--not the one we have to settle for.