I managed to stay up late enough to know that Barack Obama was going to win the election. But I didn’t see his speech in Chicago’s Grant Park. No need. He previewed his remarks for me in an e-mail last night. More about that in a minute. I look forward to this kind of personal communication continuing when he moves into the White House in January.
But what I really look forward to is a return to civility in politics and government — and the hope that a president can be someone who unites, not just decides. We need that as a nation. Desperately. And I was struck by a comment from one of the TV talking heads last night. He opined that the campaign came down to a choice between hope and fear.
Well, no. Not quite. As I have said many times, John McCain is a decent, honorable man. Unfortunately, he could never move out of the shadow of George Bush. You’ll recall that Bush had the opportunity to be someone who could unite the nation — give us hope — in the aftermath of 9/11. He blew it.
So we turn now to Barack Obama — much like the nation turned to John Kennedy in 1960, a year before Obama was born. Kennedy engaged a new generation in the spirit of public service — of working for the common good. If Obama can do the same, then we’ll be a lot better of as a nation in four or eight years than we are today.
Obama does represent hope. My son, Brian, reminded me of that with a comment he made last night to one of my blog posts. Brian teaches 7th and 8th grade history in Colorado Springs. The students for the most part are from families who have come from Mexico. These are kids where the odds of success in school and throughout life are not in their favor — for a host of reasons, social, economic and cultural. They pretty much define the notion of “at-risk” students. Yet they are basically good kids with strong families. But they need hope. Maybe they will have some today when Brian talks to them about Barack Obama and the results of the election.
And that gets me back to the e-mail I received from Barack. I believe I witnessed last night for the second time in my lifetime the passing of the torch to another generation. I was 12 years old when Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960, but even then I could sense that something really important had happened. I sense the same thing today — as my generation — the first wave of the Baby Boomers — starts to move to the sidelines. I hope that the “Obama generation” can get this country moving in the right direction again. And I hope that all the young voters who flocked to his campaign continue to press for change and take an active role in government and public service and careers — like education — that really do contribute to the public good.
And he sure knows how to communicate in a way that should resonate with everyone. Here’s the text of the e-mail:
I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.
We just made history.
And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.
You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.
I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.
We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.
But I want to be very clear about one thing…
All of this happened because of you.
And then this, as reported in USA Today this morning:
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of the founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama told thousands of cheering supporters at an enormous rally in Chicago’s Grant Park.
“I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you.”
A new generation. With hope.