After spending so many months guarding any optimism, obsessively reading the news and checking polling sites, repeatedly thinking this is to good to be true... what a feeling. I'm still going to the New York Times website obsessively, only this time it is to remind myself that what is happening is real.
We've seen so much damage done in the last eight years, more than anybody could have imagined possible. So much has been based on fear, isolation, and divisiveness. McCain/Palin repeatedly, to the end, played to people's worst, lowest, and most base instincts. We couldn't help but cringe as we saw John McCain, one of our bravest politicians, give up his values and literally sell his soul to appeal to the worst of the Republican base. As the gauntlet descended, his people tried every possible way of attack and refused to repudiate some of the lowest, most dangerous things ever said in a campaign. At last, people have finally begun to wake up to how far we have moved backwards, how much less of a voice we have when everything comes down to blue and red... Obama's decisive victory is a repudiation of eight years of a move away from democracy in this country, away from the values of tolerance, imagination, openness, leadership, and accountability that this country is supposed to represent. Yes, Obama is a politician, and despite the poetry with which he so often speaks and the exuberance he embodies, we must not forget this. Over the last two years, he often fought fire with fire, accepted large sums of money from special interests, and played into the sad, television-dominated electoral system that has so compromised real political debate in this country. He is no doubt a realist, somebody who often plays the odds and in many circles is known for playing it safe. Those of us who dream must remember this and urge him to face the ills of our system before it is too late.
Without doubt, he faces immense challenges, challenges beyond all measure, systemic problems too great to be solved in just one or two presidential terms. Nevertheless, let's hope that he can live up to his promise of something better and do some things to really heal this world, move it forward and inspire us all to lead better lives. This man is the American story in so many ways. By ascending to the top in so short a time, defeating political machines thought to be invincible, he has reawakened people around the world to the possibilities that exist here that make this country what it is. My heart is touched when I think that people in all corners of the world are smiling today as they read the news. As the son of immigrants, I've always been reminded that despite all of America's faults, it's a place that offers things that are unattainable to most of the world. Just thirty five years ago, my parents came here with next to nothing and have gone on to create a life for their children and themselves that they could have never have dreamed possible. There is a reason that millions of people dream of someday coming here, and it is time to act in way that embodies the vision that defines this nation and acts in every way to spread it to the rest of the world. We are an important part of the world, and our actions, both positive and negative, have impact on everybody. Regardless of who becomes the world's next superpower, what we do as a nation can determine the direction this world takes. Future generations will learn not only from our failings, but also from our triumphs.
Not only does Obama's story remind us that anything is possible, but also that it is patriotic to criticize your country when you feel it errs, that dissent truly does lie at the fabric of democracy, and that it is only when we and our leaders ask ourselves tough questions (and, yes, look at the nuance in things) that we can move forward and bring about a change of direction. Let us all be vigilant in holding on to the excitement we all feel right now, but not let our sense of victory at the present moment lull us into complacency. No public servant ever deserves a free ticket into office, and as citizens we have to work to remind our leadership who put them there and maintain a vigilance in making sure that we never again allow ourselves to be lead down any of the disastrous roads of the last eight years.