Although my candidate lost, I cannot help but be excited by the significance that this election holds for America and African-Americans. We have seen African-Americans hold the office of secretary of state, justice of the Supreme Court, chairman of Merrill Lynch, and many other high offices. Electing Barack Obama president, however, crosses the final, most daunting frontier. African-Americans have suffered from an appalling, dreadful history of mistreatment in this country. As interviews on election night made clear, crossing this frontier tells them that they can share fully in the American dream.
The happiness displayed on election night by millions of African-Americans reminded me of the reaction of American Jewry when Israel declared its Independence on May 14, 1948. American Jews took to their streets in an unprecedented, spontaneous burst of joy and celebration. The jubilation was so intense that non-Jews watched with amazement and to some extent the Jews’ happiness was infectious. The unparalleled euphoria alone gave gentiles a sense of the importance to world Jewry of that momentous event.
While the election of Obama is vastly different, I understand how those gentiles felt because that is how I felt on Nov. 4, when I saw the elation among my African-American countrymen. I teared up when I saw the tears in their eyes and I understood the symbolism of the moment to them. And Obama’s victory speech was perfect for the occasion, his demeanor exceptional.
The day was not, however, perfect for Obama. His grandmother, who raised him, missed seeing, by one short day, this awesome American miracle – her grandson, a poor, multiracial orphan, a nobody from a broken home, rising out of nowhere to become president of the United States of America. Could she have imagined such a thing when she raised this boy? It is utterly tragic that she did not get to see her personal “promised land” – the election of her grandson. Hollywood could not have produced a more heart-rending epilogue.
I still do not approve of Obama’s left-wing politics, but I am hopeful he will govern from the Center, like Clinton, although with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid running an undivided Congress, I fear my hopes will be dashed. Nevertheless, we should all wish our next president, Barack Obama, well as he confronts some of the most difficult challenges faced by an incoming president since the 1930s.