On November 4th, America came of age and proved that we consider a candidate on the content of his character, not the color of his skin, affirming for the entire world that while we often fall short of our promise we are still a country striving for the ideal that all men are created equal.
A Gulf Coast Southerner, my mother has told me she remembers a time when there were separate drinking fountains and public restrooms for "colored" and "white" people. Now she has lived to see a person of color elected to the highest office in the land. A radical change for one lifetime.
Just forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr King knew he wouldn't live to see such a change as the election of a Barack Obama. A short while before his death, he delivered a speech in which he said, "I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
Americans made this historic choice for many reasons. For one, like JFK, Obama promises to be strong on foreign policy, not the pacifist some republicans tried to cast him as during the election. Although he plans to scale back activities in Iraq and close Guantanamo Bay, he also plans to send more troops to Afghanistan to finish the job there regarding Al Qaeda while simultaneously redoubling efforts in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.
Americans also like Obama's hybrid plan for health care. Unlike the universal plan that Hillary Clinton failed to implement during her husband's presidency, the president-elect's plan allows people who are happy with their health care to remain in their respective plans while others can join private networks or the same plan extended to those who serve in Congress. He also wants to extend tax credits to small businesses to make it easier for them to offer health insurance to their employees. For millions of uninsured Americans, these ideas bring welcome relief.
Americans also voted for Obama's fair tax plan. Families making under $250,000 a year will see a tax cut while those making over that amount will see a slight tax increase, but not more than they were paying in the 1990s during the Bill Clinton presidency. Far from socialism, this policy is simply a common sense approach to jump-starting our economy and making sure everyone is paying an equitable share.
This watershed moment in American history will start a new chapter in the books on American politics. No doubt one of the highlights of those new chapters will be Obama's unequaled capacity to inspire. "I'm asking you to believe," he says. "Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington...I'm asking you to believe in yours." Here we are, in 2008, believing in ourselves, believing in him, believing in our country - all under the leadership of the first African-American president in our long and troubled history. May God bless the good ol' USA.