Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Impossible Took A Long Time

It’s the Year 2009, and an African American man is about to become president of the United States of America. Maybe when I see Barrack Obama sitting behind that desk in the Oval Office, it will sink in. The Middle East is fire hot again; Economic conditions in the United States are the worst they’ve been in 80 years; we’re bogged down in two seemingly interminable wars; ordinary tax-paying citizens are underwriting the salaries and town houses of the filthy rich; and George Bush created this mess in only eight short years. If Obama doesn’t straighten it out within a few months, the press will crucify him; they have already begun, and he hasn’t even been sworn in.

An interviewer of a prestigious magazine phrased a question to me, beginning with this: “…the presidential election brought a sea of change of politics, business as usual and who knows what else in our culture.” I couldn’t let that one pass. I am proud of Mr. Obama and what he has accomplished, but I won’t allow anyone to tell me that there does not exist anywhere another African American capable of governing this country. I do submit, that Mr. Obama has many talents that, when combined, give him a uniqueness, and that he is the man for his time. But is he unique? I don’t know. We didn’t know there was such a man as he until he rose to the occasion, so there are probably others who can, and will, also seize a moment. I replied to the interviewer that Mr. Obama’s election did not bring about the change in political and social climate, but that it is a reflection of change that has taken place and that is continuing. He offers what the country needs, and the electorate recognized that fact.

But in spite of his considerable talents, Mr. Obama could have lost the election to his far less capable opponent if the electorate had feared intellectuals as it once did.. Adlai Stevenson (Also a distinguished Illinoisan intellectual and orator) lost to Eisenhower twice; Hubert Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon (a man who had already failed in several ways), And John F. Kennedy came within a few thousand votes of losing to Richard Nixon. Both Al Gore and John Kerr—superior by far in intellect and industry to George Bush—nonetheless lost a presidential election to him. Americans frequently cast aside the better candidate. NOT THIS TIME. President-elect Obama said that he stands on the shoulders of many African Americans who fought for change (a paraphrase), but in my view, for our children and our children’s children, no “shoulders” have been as broad, as strong or as powerful as those of Barrack Obama.