12/06/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Whole World Watching Grant Park, Again

Jonathan Samuels, a distant cousin of mine, a reporter on Sky-TV in the UK, is in Chicago covering the Obama election. He told me in an e-mail: "I think people in the UK are more excited in your election than in our own political situation!" (Check out Jonathan's work at Scroll down to the "How America Works" section).

Similarly, another British cousin, Jill Whitehead, a political junkie, with whom I waited for Obama last summer at No. 10 Downing, sent me an e-mail Monday: "Hope all goes well tomorrow for Obama campaign - Europe is counting on him!"

I thought the Brits were reserved. But apparently they have caught Obamania.

It seems clear--brace yourself, I feel another exclamation mark coming-- "The whole world is watching!"

The phrase holds a lot of history for Grant Park.

Indeed, the whole world was watching as Barack Obama lapped to victory against John McCain. History was made just electing Obama.

But I can remember 40 years ago as a University of Illinois journalism student watching the Democratic convention and the police riots in Grant Park on TV. The Yippies (Youth International Party) and hippies and so on were shouting: "The whole world is watching!" then as they were beaten by the cops.

The world watched in horror and the Democratic Party was devastated by a police state in Chicago.

Funny how different and similar things are in '08 vs. '68:

No cop beatings in Grant Park this time though a Daley is still mayor. It was a Lovefest, not a fistfest.

We're still embroiled in wars overseas: Iraq and Afghanistan now; Vietnam back then.

American flags were waving Tuesday night over Grant Park as the children of the hippies and Yippies and a coalition of everyone else celebrated the Obama win. Back in '68, the riot in Grant Park started when a protester tried to lower an American flag.

It feels like a new day in America as our hopes rise this time in Grant Park and around the city, country and world. Maybe we can finally resolve the issues we should have addressed years ago, including "the wars," the economy, the environment and health care.

Congressman John Lewis, who fought the good fight for civil rights in this country, portrayed Obama on NBC News as more than a U.S. figure, but one who will transcend boundaries. Let's hope so.

A new day, yes. Let's hope a better one. The whole world is watching!