Monday, November 10, 2008

Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.

The day after the election, it took until three in the morning for my mind to calm down. The last of the cross-country phone calls ended by midnight. The last text message came in shortly before one. Some friends were elated at the results; others were in despair.

I kept thinking about what we had just done. We had elected a black man president. I didn't think I'd live to see that happen. We chose youth over age, black over white, and perhaps hope over more of the same.

I grew up in a multi-racial culture in Southern California. My classrooms were the epitome of the rainbow coalition long before the Reverend Jesse Jackson coined the phrase. A typical classroom could have had as many as twenty different ethnic minorities in twenty five seats. I watched the Civil Rights Movement play out on television without really being emotionally or physically involved. I was happy with the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1964, but I was more impacted by the war in Vietnam and the Women's Rights Movement.

Then, I went to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta in 1988. I was in a private area when Jesse Jackson gave his stirring speech on education. I admit to having tears on my cheeks when he finished. I began to understand what he and the Reverend Martin Luther King had been fighting for.

And now we have a president who missed all of this, but in a different way. He's our first post-Boomer president. He grew up with all the rights we have come to expect. He grew up in a multi-racial culture in Hawaii. And he made his own way through university and law school without relying on affirmative action. He did it on the merits of his intellect, not on the color of his skin.

So we are faced with impossible challenges: the failing (or failed) economy, obscene bailouts, two wars, a war on terror, healthcare, education -- who the heck would want this job??? President-elect Obama asked for and got the job. As Confucius said, "Be careful what you ask for. You might get it."

Whether we supported or opposed him during the election, we must rally and support him as our president. We owe it to those who came before, to those alive today, and to our children and children's children who will be paying for our combined fiscal follies long after we are on the wrong side of the grass.

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