Monday, November 3, 2008

So... it's been awhile..

..and I've been busy.

But, not too busy to stay with the election.

After all, I've followed every moment since I stood in the cold with complete strangers (but brothers and sisters in spirit) at Senator Obama's Springfield announcement.

I've attended fundraisers, been in the presence of great (and extremely hopeful) people, including the candidate and his family.

I've watched every primary decision- at home in Chicago, at hotels in Springfield, at bars, parties- anywhere there was a television or a radio, I was there.

I went on the campaign trail- most notably in Indianapolis, where supporters honked their horns at us in a show of support.

I was there when he accepted his party's nomination, and the earth almost stood still.

I've worried through debates, noticing every flinch and every triumph.

We're finally at the finish line. I feel it's only appropriate that a few final observations be made.

On the Cusp of a Miracle.

Sometimes, looking through the eyes of an adult, it’s just too hard to put certain events into context. Here I was, so busy feeling jealous of my mother getting the chance to live through 1968, worried that my generation would accomplish nothing original. It never dawned on me that we had to ultimately fulfill the promise of those times. To do so is our birthright.

At the risk of waxing poetic at a time when so many are doing the same, no matter what happens with this election, I have seen immense growth in both my country and myself. I must also keep in mind that every step forward puts this country in unfamiliar territory, where new obstacles will present themselves. Case in point: many people have voted in this election who have never voted before. Perhaps it is only an exercise this year, but I hope that we all remain engaged and increase our participation in the years to come, understanding that one election does not change a person’s circumstances.

On the one hand, we are rightfully excited about being on the cusp of a miracle. On the other hand, we should continue to remember that at the end of the day, this election simply represents an opportunity. Opportunities, like most things in life, are in and of themselves neutral. One can either take advantage of, or squander them.

I’ve had the privilege of watching this man make the most of his opportunities since 2004. I’ve seen countless candidates run against him, only to fall by the wayside due in part to their own issues, but mostly due to his brilliance, amazing timing, and many, many intercessions of a “higher power”.

I’ve seen careers fall to scandal, incompetence, and mistakes that could easily rise to the level of political natural disasters. In the process, each failure has taught us a new, but hard lesson about ourselves and what we are willing to accept in our leadership.

In the aftermath, it won’t matter that you weren’t a campaign manager, a close family member, or a million-dollar contributor. The beauty is that we all own this campaign equally. Not because we may belong to the same race of the ultimate victor, or because “we knew him when”. We own it because he has promised to represent each of us. He raised his voice in the venues where our own voices have been silenced for so long.

He has shown us what oratorical genius sounds like. He has demonstrated to us what it takes to have control over one’s self, and to remain consistent in message while others change their minds with the direction of the wind.

Throughout it all, he has exuded true confidence. From him, we’ve learned that this kind of confidence can’t ever come from a position of weakness, doesn’t take the tone of arrogance, and never belittles anyone in its path. Confidence should be cool, composed and always elegant.

It’s nice that he may be the “First African-American President”, but have we ever really understood how extremely deep that concept runs? The fact that we had to wait until 2008 for this potential victory doesn’t infer a history of poor qualifications, inferior intelligence or any other deficiency. Wearing that title almost always represents the overcoming of major opposition in both mind-set and status quo. On a more basic level, it means African-Americans and other minorities were previously barred from the opportunity to do more at an earlier time in history. To see it in that light, I will be glad when we can rid ourselves of the entire idea of "firsts", because it simply does not represent our failure, but the failure of a system.

Rather than focus on that aspect, I want to take a moment to truly celebrate how this whole process came together. I will passionately celebrate every race and every person that participated in this effort- some in the face of great pressure to do otherwise. There is simply no way his success could happen without the many different colors, affiliations and factions that make up this country.

Just think! If this nation continues to live up to its promise, the stigma that belongs exclusively to a race that has had to continually “catch-up” will have to dissipate. In response, we will all have to act accordingly by setting our excess baggage down.

Are you ready for that kind of change?

Years from now, I will fully appreciate the fact that I was an adult today. Mature enough to at least begin to understand what it took for this man to endure the race of our lifetime. Ultimately however, I will always envy my pre-adolescent nieces and nephew, who are too young to comprehend it all.

Whereas I was fortunate enough to grow up with family, friends and other media portrayals such as the “Huxtables” to balance out negative imagery of my race, my nieces and nephew will grow and mature with a President who looks like them. To them, THIS is what normal will look like. That alone is my prayer answered.

They won’t understand the hundreds of years of struggle that preceded this miracle. It is up to their adult family to fill them in on that history. But for the first time, with this election as the backdrop, that history lesson will read less like a warning, and more like an illumination.