There is no way to express the feelings that went through me as I watched the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday evening. I started watching political conventions in the summer of 1976 at the age of 14, and have found every one of them eventful and exciting in their own way. But on Wednesday night it was more than just another nomination made by yet another group of delegates. Instead it was history being made as the first African-American was selected to lead a national ticket into the fall campaign. Naturally I am very proud that my party was the one to lead the way by placing Barack Obama on the ticket as the presidential candidate.
But there is much more than mere politics to my joy. All of my long held beliefs from the days in grade school about what this country stood for came flooding back to me as I watched the televised proceedings. I found myself getting misty eyed in the living room as I watched and celebrated the huge step this nation has now taken. The ideas as instilled by my teachers that anyone can grow up and become president is one that some find fanciful or too idealistic. But the amazing story of Barack Obama’s journey makes me know that the ‘old-fashioned’ notions are indeed still applicable in this age. That is not something to take lightly. In an era where too many of my fellow citizens are jaded and apathetic about the political process, the placement of Obama on the national ticket is a testament to the political process working the way we were taught it could when we were school children.
For me the steps of progress for African Americans are far more than just a political event. As mostly a self-taught student of history (and especially the Civil War), and a constant reader about the heroic men and women who blazed the path so Obama can be where he is today, makes me most aware that the small but brave actions taken every day has weight and consequence in the larger pages of history. What has transpired this year across the nation is another chapter in that ongoing saga.
As I sat on the sofa Wednesday night I thought about the many larger than life characters in one of my favorite reads, “Freedom” by William Safire, a lengthy book about President Lincoln and the Civil War. The paperback version in my office shows years of use, as the underbook is a tremendous resource. From those pages, due to the writing style of Safire, the men and women of that era easily come to life. Now in light of the newest entry into the pages of racial progress I thought what would Horace Greeley, the great newspaperman print as his banner headline the morning after Obama became the presidential candidate? What might New York Senator William Seward, a vibrant voice against slavery say, and how ashen would Jefferson Davis’ face be when hearing the news?
Regardless of how we feel about either political party, or any particular policy that faces our nation, one thing is perfectly clear. We are a great nation, and when we are true to the basic underpinnings of what we stand for, we grow and become stronger. As Americans we all can be proud of the step we have taken in a most positive and forward direction.
Today we all can hold our head high.