Obama’s win proves ideals can become real

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Forty years after a prophetic speech in which a man declared his dream for a nation, Nov. 4, 2008, proved that the dream is becoming a reality. American democracy once again prevails and now displays for the world its true definition — government for and by the people.

Americans put aside racial bigotries and political differences for the message of change Barack Obama inspired. Americans were not dissuaded by his race, but persuaded by his vision to take the country in a new direction. Irrespective of party affiliation, whether left or right, or our own beliefs — being objective — we saw a man who orchestrated a campaign that will forever change American politics and America. People, young and old, black, white and other have become engaged in the political process in ways that are unprecedented. America now sits on the precipice of regaining its place as the world’s leader.

As a black man who has endured little to no inequality compared to those who suffered many years before my existence, the election of a black president was hard to fathom. On election night, I, like millions of others, sat in front of the television with tears streaming down my face as a reporter announced, “We project Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States.” I was unable to control the emotion sparked by the accomplishment of America. I also watched with empathy as others cried tears of joy. Even as I write these words, tears fall as reality continues to set in.

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For minutes as the final presidential results rang in, the U.S. class system appeared to be suspended — no one was a celebrity or average citizen, yet everyone was a member of a single party with a single mantra — Change! We were temporarily brought together by the words of our country’s leadership from both the left and the right.

In Sen. John McCain’s concession speech, he referenced Obama as being “my president” and delivered a message that conveyed oneness across political parties. He also avowed a sincere willingness to work with the incoming administration to rebuild the country.

President-elect Obama said in his speech that he would be “president for all.” He also spoke of his hope for America reverberating the campaign’s catchphrase, “Yes We Can.”

I have newfound inspiration for this, “A New America.” Barack Obama’s victory should serve as an inspiration to young men and women around the world, regardless of race, religion, culture and creed. This is not “A New America” because a black man is our leader, but “A New America” because we have reinvigorated the ability for its people to hope and dream. But even as we have cracked the glass ceiling, crushed many of our own mental limitations, lest we forget, we still have so far to go. Americans have made major steps toward realizing our individual promises while maintaining a unified message — “Change we can believe in.”

I admit that my limited thinking and pessimism rested squarely on my own lack of vision that was based solely on my historical view of our society. Although I did not live it, my parents and grandparents have shared stories. I have read books and seen videos of blacks being hosed, beaten and killed because of their opposition to exclusion. Many before my time envisioned a reality of equality and others saw it taking shape. What I saw as a bleak and seemingly irrevocable past helped to shape my view of a perpetual future of privileged white men as our national leaders. Many visionaries saw our past as mere obstacles to realizing America’s promise. It had nothing to do with me not believing that a black man could be the leader of the free world, but my limited views of what could be.

In a letter from Nelson Mandela, first black president of South Africa, to Barack Obama shortly after becoming the first black president-elect of the United States, Mandela wrote, “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.” It is my prayer and belief that our hopes and dreams will continue to spark progressive change in “A New America.”


Keydron K. Guinn, Ph.D., is a former Vicksburg resident who works as a sociologist, researcher, and university educator researcher in Louisiana. E-mail reaches him at keydron@gmail.com.