Wednesday, November 05, 2008

All Is Possible



Watershed:
1. A ridge of high land dividing two areas that are drained by different river systems. Also called water parting.
2. The region draining into a river, river system, or other body of water.
3. A critical point that marks a division or a change of course; a turning point.

However any of us voted, there is no doubt that this is a watershed moment for America. For the rest of my life, I will never forget where I was when the election results were announced, shortly after 8 PM Pacific Time. (For the record: in my living room, having just pulled the made-with-my-own-hands chicken pot pies out of the oven.)

This excerpt from President-elect Obama’s speech moved me the most deeply. Perhaps because I live, and write, in awe of history--not just the grand events, but the lives of the ordinary folks who witness them. Perhaps because I’ve marveled so many times about the incredible changes seen by my own grandmother in the 89 years of her life: from a tiny, poverty-wracked Sicilian village at the turn of the last century, to the the splendors and opportunities of America at the cusp of a new millenium. Whatever the reason, I listened to this with tears:

“…This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. Shes a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing—Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

“She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldnt vote for two reasons—because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

“And tonight, I think about all that shes seen throughout her century in America—the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

“At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

“When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

“When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

“She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

“A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

"America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves --if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?”

In their speeches last night, both Obama and McCain emphasized what I most admire and love about this country. That we are a nation founded, not on accidents of genetics or geography, but on universal and enduring principles. That, in service to those ideals, our founders conceived a system of government able to encompass societal changes that they themselves probably could scarcely imagine. That for all our flaws and mistakes, we strive still to be that more perfect union...and when we disagree on how best to attain that goal, we do so peacefully, publicly, and without fear.

That as watershed moments like this attest: In America, all is truly possible.

6 comments:

Walter Rowntree said...

Thank you for posting that part of Obama's (Are we allowed to be on a first name basis?) speech. I had heard the beginning and the end of that very segment, but had missed the middle. Quite an orator.
To think that the leader of our country was decided in the end, not by the political issues, or over race or sex, or through attack ads, but by the temperament of the people - the man whose supporters had the most tolerance for standing in long lines ended up the winner. (OK, I know this doesn't apply to OR, a commendably progressive state). Just goes to show that the democratic process still works.
I have been shocked (Shocked!) by the number of people here in Idaho who are terrified of a Barrack presidency. They think that he is either socialist, Muslim, black, vegetarian, or Hawaiian, none of which, apparently, would be acceptable in a president. We live in interesting times

Melissa Marsh said...

Definitely a historic moment. I felt very proud that I live in a country where I could vote for my next leader. So many people around the world do not have that opportunity.

Christine Fletcher said...

Interesting times, indeed! There was a lot of fear on the left, remember, when Bush was elected. Campaigning is a process of demonizing, and when it's over, roughly half the electorate ends of feeling like they're stuck. My fervent hope--the same I would have if McCain had been elected-- is that the worst of the partisan oneupmanship and bickering and gridlock is behind us. Not that we should all agree or even be on the same page. (How boring would THAT be?) But that people will commit to solutions and getting stuff DONE.

Melissa, absolutely. We're watching the John Adams DVDs right now and the timing is just perfect...over two hundred years after the writing of the DoI and Constitution, here we are, exercising our right to vote for the candidate of our choice, just as they had envisioned. (Well, OK, maybe not JUST as they'd envisioned, given that we're gals...but you know what I mean). ;) I'm one of the only liberals in a very, very conservative family, so I see (and hear!) both sides. :) But one thing we all agree on is how grand America is, how lucky we are to be here.

lisanowak said...

What moves me most deeply about Obama is his honor. No matter what the other side threw at him, he took the high road and stuck to his positive message. What a wonderful moment this is in America. Who would have thought that honor, hope, and decency could still prevail anywhere outside of a book or movie? This election gives me hope for our country and our world, and inspires me to keep striving for my own dreams and goals.

Christine Fletcher said...

Lisa--The inspiration to keep striving--definitely one of the positive messages that came out of this moment. May we all continue to carry it forward, each in our own way.

Melody said...

I'm in a swing state that went blue for the first time since 1964. This is a great. But like other poster said some fear him. That is very sad. They can't feel the joy with the rest of the world. He has already made positive changes to our international relations.