All Americans will remember where we were when Barack Obama was elected the president of the United States, whether or not you voted for him. If Sept. 11 was one of the worst days in American history, last Tuesday was one of the best.
Even President Bush had to take notice of the historic nature of Obama’s victory. “It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House.”
And, for the first time since a few weeks after Sept. 11, I actually not only found myself agreeing with the president but also being stirred and inspired by his words. Most importantly, I believed him.
Because there seems to be so much anger and hatred and disgust emanating from the right-wing minority, it’s important to examine Mr. Bush’s remarks last Wednesday and to heed his call for national unity.
He said, “No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday. Across the country, citizens voted in large numbers. They showed a watching world the vitality of America’s democracy, and the strides we have made toward a more perfect union. They chose a president whose journey represents a triumph of the American story — a testament to hard work, optimism and faith in the enduring promise of our nation.
“Many of our citizens thought they would never live to see that day. This moment is especially uplifting for a generation of Americans who witnessed the struggle for civil rights with their own eyes — and four decades later see a dream fulfilled.
“A long campaign has now ended, and we move forward as one nation. We’re embarking on a period of change in Washington, yet there are some things that will not change. The United States government will stay vigilant in meeting its most important responsibility: protecting the American people. And the world can be certain this commitment will remain steadfast under our next commander-in-chief.”
It’s still difficult to comprehend, for some of us, the fact that democracy actually prevailed in the United States. It seems like a lifetime since America has seen an election that wasn’t tainted by electoral fraud.
We can take collective credit for that. The response to Obama was so overwhelming, so unprecedented, that no amount of vote tampering, in Ohio, Florida or Indiana, could change the result. The American people have spoken with a clear and convincing voice.
No president since Roosevelt has taken office in the midst of so many crises. Obama’s task is close to impossible. He has to restore our economy, our foreign policy and our pride all at the same time. He can ill afford to make many mistakes.
All the while, the attack machine that failed to prevent his election will work toward making his administration fail. All the fringe cults from the early Clinton years — the gun nuts, the New World Order crowd, the would-be Timothy McVeighs that sit alone fuming throughout America — will make a comeback.
Obama seems like he’s up to the job and so does his team. Joe Biden is smart and determined. John Kerry will make a magnificent secretary of state if he is asked. Congressman John Lewis should be appointed to a senior position. It will be a government of superstars — a Dream Team built to reverse the Bush Apocalypse.
Now it’s time for us to sit back and let the man start to do his job. It’s tough right now and it’s going to get tougher. The best thing you can do is keep your nose clean, pay your bills, show up to work on time, if you’re lucky enough to have a job. Put some money back if you can. Help is on the way.
We will each be called upon to do our part to help rebuild our country in the next eight years. We will be fixing our bridges, our roads, our economy and our health care system. Times will remain uncertain for as long as we can see into the future.
But remember what President Bush talked about as the positive qualities of Barack Obama: “hard work, optimism and faith in the enduring promise of our nation.”
Hard work. We better steel ourselves for plenty of that. Optimism. We will have to hold on to that no matter what happens.
Faith in the enduring promise of our nation. Great men and women throughout our long history, from Jefferson to Lincoln to LBJ, King and Clinton, have had that.
Barack Obama has that, too. And so do we. It’s time to take a breather, savor our nation’s victory and get to work.
There’s no shortage of work to get done.