Wednesday, November 05, 2008


It's their time now

My daughter turned 18 last month, and was a first-time voter in yesterday's election. And like many thousands of new voters, she helped elect Barack Obama the first black president of the United States.
When the election was called for Obama, my family and I watched the jubilation in Grant Park. Tears were in my eyes. My husband and I are old enough to remember the racial strife of the 1960's and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. We understand and appreciate the significance of electing an American leader who represents limitless possibility, who has energized people everywhere.
Yet last night, as my daughter and I celebrated with a big crowd in Portland, I realized that the election of Barack Obama means something different to her than it does to her parents. We found a noisy celebration going on in front of the Bagdad Theater on Southeast Hawthorne Blvd. It was mostly young people, I estimated a couple hundred, with the Portland Police Dept. well represented. There were fireworks, chanting, group drumming (on refuse receptacles, some of which took a good beating and may need to be replaced), crowds running across the intersections and high-fiving one another. There was even a young man playing "Scotland the Brave" on bagpipes, while riding a unicycle. I mean dude, this is Portland we're talking about! But I couldn't even begin to imagine the mental gymnastics of coordination that must take.
At first I joined in the intersection-crossing bit, but my knees quickly reminded me that my street-dancing days are over. So I hung out in the doorway of the Oasis Cafe and watched my daughter partying it up with the rest. And I remembered when I was eighteen and voted for the first time. There was no street revelry, at least not any that I saw. People were saying how impressive it was that a "peanut farmer from Georgia" got elected, but certainly not that it was a different world, or that it changed history.
Last night I watched those young people whooping it up, excited about having a better future, and I realized that this is not just about one man; it's just as much about the message he carries. It's a message no Presidential candidate ever got across quite like this: that the world, and the future, are what we make of it. All of us. And if Barack Obama reached my daughter and her generation as they make their transition into adulthood, then I am grateful to him and will support his presidency as I supported his campaign.
I've perused about a dozen blogs since last night, and among those who posted about the election results there was joy and hope, also some cynicism and snark. Regardless, I've been enriched by reading everyone's take on it. This national election has engaged more of us than any I've ever experienced, and that's a good thing.
Perhaps it's true that John McCain's thoughts and outlook are colored by his years as a POW in Hanoi; I don't know. It might offer some insight into his slip at the end of the campaign when he addressed his audience as "my fellow prisoners". All I know for certain, is that my worldview forever changed when I became a mother. I can't help but be sentimental. I see my only child coming into her own, and the woman she will become. While I look forward to experiences yet to come, I also know that I've raised an activist and a leader--something this century definitely needs!

I think the rest of the world is in on your party, too. Even though we had no say in this process in Canada, we watched and monitored, even moreso than our own election which took place last month...and the great majority of us cheered when Obama won. I feel hopeful for your country now...and as a bonus, maybe that annoying blond girl on The View will shut up...
Think how the world had changed in our lifetime! We've seen the first Catholic president and his assination, the first men in space and on the moon and a space station, the civil rights movement, the first computers and the beginning of the digital age, and now the first non-white president. I can't wait to see what more there is to come!
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