Hear or download this post (mp3 file – 2:40): We Were There
Regardless of who you voted for in the election, and regardless of how you feel about the outcome, history was made in the United States yesterday. Forty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., an African American man was elected president.
In his gracious concession speech Senator John McCain said:
“A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States.”
And although there had been boos from the crowd at his earlier mention of Senator Barack Obama, the crowd applauded when McCain said: “Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.” When I watched the news this morning I saw reports from around the world, and listened to people who were amazed by what had happened here, as if they had watched the first landing on the moon. Their voices were filled with wonder, their eyes shining with admiration, as they marveled at a country where truly anything seems possible.
It’s hard not to feel disappointed when your candidate loses; it’s hard not to feel smug when your candidate wins; but what I heard on election night was an appeal from both candidates to put our partisanship behind us and move forward together, to remember that we are not a nation of red states and blue states, but the United States of America. Senator McCain said it well in his closing remarks: “I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.”
I hope we will do that. I hope we will leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited. And if they ask us someday what it was like to be around when all this happened we can tell them:
“We were there.”