Barack Obama is a black man who has just been elected President of the United States. I did not realize the significance of this until yesterday as I was watching the election coverage. Of course, I had been aware of his skin color all along, but it had never mattered. I saw Obama as America's best hope to address the many grave problems that face us. That, and nothing more.
But yesterday, his color suddenly mattered. I saw him through the eyes of the black Americans who had lined up for hours to cast a vote for one of their own, something many of them never thought they would live long enough to do. I saw him through the eyes of the young, black male who said that Obama is an inspiration to him and who seemed to realize that while race and poverty may still matter, they are no longer excuses. I saw him through Reverend Jesse Jackson's eyes as he stood in stunned silence amidst the tumult of Grant Park, tears rolling unchecked down his face. I saw him through the eyes of Reverend Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the joyous celebration at Ebenezer Baptist Church surged around her. I saw him through the eyes of the black pundit on CNN who choked up when he said that the words, "You could grow up to be President one day," are now true for all Americans.
And I saw him as the new face of America and how that will resonate in countries where people do not have lily white skin. I saw him as the new face of America and how that will resonate in countries where people, despite their lily white skin, have been distressed by a consistent display of American arrogance and by America's broken promise. I saw him as a symbol of unity both within America and across the world.
The final count as of this morning is Obama 52%, McCain 46%. Obama was not elected by minorities, but without them, he could not have won. Obama was not elected by college kids and first-time voters, but without them, he could not have won. Obama was not elected by soccer moms and NASCAR dads or by retirees living in Florida, but without them, he could not have won. It took all of us. We stood together and we elected a President we can be proud of.
But this President has more challenges ahead of him than any other President in history. He acknowledged them himself in his acceptance speech, "For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair."
And close to half a nation that voted, some with passion, fear, and hatred, against him.
Long live President Obama.