The results of America’s presidential election are being acclaimed and celebrated around the world. Only in America is such a story possible.
The world’s greatest democracy has decided to change course at a time when it is sinking into a recession and engaged in two difficult wars. And it has selected as its president a relative newcomer with a most unusual name: Barack Hussein Obama. As a consequence, it has also addressed its single greatest failing in American history: slavery and its painful legacy. While not erasing this great scar, this election brings to a close a most important chapter in the struggle for equal rights.
Yesterday America resolutely declared its intentions for its future. Domestically it will address its economic problems through investment and innovation, it will ease the burden on middle class families by offering tax breaks, better health care and a quality education. America will work to end the Iraq war responsibly, go after Bin Laden wherever he may be, and it will work to elevate America’s standing in the world. The election of Obama has already re-opened many doors overseas.
In the afterglow of this election, hope, optimism and pride shine brightly throughout this land. There is little doubt that President-elect Obama is ready to lead the country. His election campaign was a masterful display of managerial, strategic and operational skills. Obama’s experience as a community organizer in Chicago gave him a major advantage as he linked a vast social network together around his proposals using twenty-first century technology. His supporters were immensely devoted to him, and they delivered record campaign donations and votes.
At this moment Obama has a righteous wind at his back. But expectations are already unrealistically soaring, both here and abroad. This election is not the end of our problems it is only the beginning of a long steep road. And impatience, instant reward, self-interests, personal agendas all will add to the onerous challenges facing our new president. Americans must show resolve, courage, selflessness, and be willing to endure sacrifice to stay on course.
I fear that gloating Democrats may present more of an obstacle in the months ahead than bitter Republicans. Democratic leaders in both houses must subordinate their own interests and egos to the greater good of the country. They must make a good faith effort to follow the direction set for them by President-elect Obama.
It already appears that President-elect Obama and his team will maximize their transition period before entering the White House. But I urge them to hit the ground running with some easy wins when they take office. The Democratic majority in Congress should do all it can to expedite these initiatives and build positive momentum. Democrats have formed a new coalition around Obama, they should do their part to preserve it.
I remind President-elect Obama that the nation and the world will judge him by the appointments he makes to his cabinet and key White House positions. President Lincoln had his “Team of Rivals.” In that spirit, I hope that Obama selects the best qualified candidates from both parties to serve in his cabinet. This is a new America, free of the tired old way of politics, to paraphrase the President-elect.
And speaking of President Abraham Lincoln, it was only seven generations ago Lincoln was elected to maintain the Union and end slavery. Then, in the midst of the great Civil War, in 1864 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. One hundred years later, in the 1960’s, Blacks and whites clashed over the rights of minorities. I saw the Reverend Martin Luther King speak, I saw “colored only” fountains and bathrooms, I witnessed the horror of segregation as it manifest itself in both the North and the South.
And now, in my lifetime, I have seen an African American do what was impossible only a few years ago. Only in America can such a story be possible.