copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
On Sunday night, November 16, 2008, twelve days after an historic Presidential Election, Americans watched the couple who represents the culmination of their efforts. Barack and Michelle Obama appeared on 60 Minutes. Journalist Steve Kroft sat with the President-elect and his partner and pondered all that had occurred and would possibly be. Television screens flickered. People felt elated, exhausted, energized, or just excited. Few knew what would come. However, most agreed, after the 2008 Presidential Election, everything was different.
Barack Obama was not yet in the Oval Office. The Illinois Senator’s promises of transformative policies are still not in place. The transition team had begun its work. Yet, until the President-Elect takes office nothing official can be done to bring about the pledge of change. Only hope reigned eternal. Nonetheless, the world had turned on its axis. All were altered by what had occurred the night before. The evidence was perhaps more obvious in the United States.
A friend, who lives in Chicago, Barack Obama’s hometown, said, as he drove to work on Wednesday morning, November 5, he could not help but notice sanitation workers wore smiles. Other commuters were more at ease. Persons in cars were happy to allow pedestrians the right of way. People on the road did not pass each other in haste. Genuinely polite postures were adopted on city streets.
The mad scramble, the race to nowhere, the need to rush was replaced by a pleasant amble. People on the streets were authentically more polite. It seemed to my champion in the Midwest, just as it did to me in the South East, America had done the unexpected, the unprecedented, the unpredictable, and for the most part, people were quite pleased with them selves and with the nation as a whole.
Some were shocked to discover a Black man could rise to power, and become President of the United States. Others were in awe that the man, Barack Obama had not been scared off. So many political opponents tried to intimidate him. Any excuse was used to slam and damn the man some thought was not Presidential material. Barack Obama was too thin, too fat, he did not associate with the “right” people; nor did he reside in a house that befitted his station.
Scandals were floated and filtered through the airwaves; the Illinois Senator was tied to the Chicago machine. The constitutional lawyer was called a Socialist, and a Communist. Those who misread reports in prominent periodicals avowed; the then Presidential hopeful palled around with American terrorists.
As if all that was not enough, the candidate’s complexion was too dark in color. Yet, for several, Barack Obama was not Black enough. Threats, from the first, were heard on the campaign trail. White supremacists, and those who merely believe themselves superior to African-Americans, attempted to put Senator Obama in what they thought to be, his place. Racism was perhaps the most recognized reason for a possible retreat. However, it was the one few wished to publicly broach. Prejudice was perchance the only issue posed that could not be denied.
All the rumors were proved wrong. Rants were rarely reasonable. Rage rolled off Barack’s back. Anger expressed against the person, Barack Obama was thought without cause. The individual who asked to be President did not personally revile his rivals. He did not antagonize his adversaries. Forever calm, Presidential aspirant Obama held his own. He captivated a country ready for change.
The person who emerged, Barack Obama, and the average people who endorsed him, helped build an American community so powerful, so full of pride, practical, and persuasive, they were able to elect a President.
That action was the change that transformed America. A supposed “celebrity” did not move millions to go to the polls. Eloquent speeches did not cause the country to suspend disbelief. Citizens of this country did not wait in long lines to cast a ballot for a boy wonder. Eighty-two year old men and women who had never voted in their lives did not register merely because they saw a man they could believe in. Hope did not enter hallowed halls and bring people to their knees.
What occurred on November 4, 2008 was the American dream. Apathy virtually ended. The people took back their power. Since Election Day 2008, average Americans anticipate that the man they appointed President would do as they desire. Common folks began to believe they were as the Constitution of the United States declares, equal. There was a genuine hope; the government was truly of, by, and for the people.
City laborers did not glow with glee as they reflected upon Barack Obama in the White House. Bus, train, plane, and subway riders did not rejoice merely because the son of a Kenyan scholar, and a Kansas student would take the oath of office. Nor did millions dance with delight as they pondered the other prideful parent, Michelle Obama, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A country did not celebrate Grandmother Robinson’s possible move to Washington District of Columbia. Few found intense pleasure in the notion that the daughters, Sasha and Malia, and a new dog would romp around the Rose Garden.
Billions beamed throughout the globe for finally, everyday folks, at least in America, achieved the impossible. Common people created enthusiastic communities that together showed they cared. Masses knocked on millions of doors. More made telephone calls. All asked friends and family to have faith that change could come if we, the people, organized and acted together as one.
The hope was that if the public believed in them selves, as the Presidential aspirant, Barack Obama requested, common folk would overcome all obstacles. On November 4, 2008, many realized they had reached heights not attainable in year’s prior.
While Barack and Michelle Obama spoke of how the election had altered their lives, the audience trusted, in truth, what was transformed was not evident on the television screen. Change came through challenging work. Citizens accomplished more than they had. Harden hearts were replaced with a reason to believe again. On Election Day, the people and the nation were transformed.
On that special Sunday, more than a week after an extraordinary election, the people’s image of self, and others, were seen in the smiles donned by Broadcaster Steve Kroft, Barack and Michelle Obama, by street sweepers, bus drivers, school teachers, stylists, police persons, fire fighters, doctors, lawyers, nurses, and so many more Americans. Each grinned as they said to themselves, “Yes we can!”
- 60 Minutes. CBS News. November 16, 2008