President-elect Barack Hussein Obama II, a son of a black man from Africa and a white woman from Kansas with a name that is decidedly not in keeping with the line of the previous 43 presidents will be the 44th President of the United States. The moment is historic and we should all stop and savor the moment. On January 20th , 2009 an African American will occupy the White House- a building built with the sweat and muscle of slaves.
I have been too full of emotion to have written about Mr. Obama’s victory before today. The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis — a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country.
But it was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation’s fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago.
The only superpower in the world and the oldest democracy—United States of America—made history on November 4 by electing its’ first ever African-American as its 44th President. As America and the entire world lap in the celebration of a new US President, it is only appropriate to put on record—the great satisfaction of seeing this historic moment—for so many reasons—but more because of my own belief in the triumph of the human spirit.
President-elect Obama’s story of bringing change and the journey that has capitulated him into the US Presidency is truly inspiring—not only for the American people but also for the world. The simple yet profound message of “change—yes we can” continues to inspire us towards a better future—of a democratic spirit, personal integrity, civility, accountability in leadership and more importantly of consciousness of shared history and a common future.
The victory of Mr. Obama is made more remarkable by the nature of his win—a complete endorsement from every section of the American people. Among whites, he won over 40% of the votes, fewer than his rival John McCain, but the best showing of a Democratic candidate among whites in recent memory. The so called rainbow coalition of new America—the youths, women, people of mixed race, Hispanics, Latinos, African, Asian etc. backed Obama to the hilt. Another achievement of Obama was taking big wins in Republican strongholds such as Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and Indiana. No wonder John McCain did not wait long to concede defeat.
While President-elect Obama was able to invigorate his campaign with the message of change right until the end—yet one should not lose sight of his skilful art of coalition building, of reaching out to every section of the American people, of ending divisiveness, healing the past wounds and moving forward with new hope and courage. As compared to his rival, Obama’s campaign was a more inclusive one—which was successful in carrying the message of hope for all Americans—and at the end this broad-based support along with his message of change formulated his ascendency into the Presidency.
As one reflects on the phenomenal rise of an African-American to the highest (most powerful) office in America and indeed the world and not to forget the remarkable democratic process as practiced in the US—there are many valuable lessons to learn, many stories to share and the many inspiration that can also encourage us—to make the changes that we need—as did Obama’s America. As rightly pointed out by Obama himself in his victory speech—the change did not happen because of him alone but due to ordinary men and women who wanted to make things happen and in the process demonstrating the effectiveness of a political campaign that draws from a people centric bottoms-up approach.
What is admirable about Obama’s win was that, to begin with, he was a colored and therefore an odd candidate running for President. In the beginning there were not many endorsements or money. Yet he was able to rally people together in large numbers—the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proving the proverbial truth of Abraham Lincoln’s adage of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Mr. Obama’s election to the White House is indeed historic, inspiring and a phenomenal achievement of the human spirit.