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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

letting out a sigh for these centuries

“We ain’t what we ought to be, and we ain’t what we want to be and we ain’t what we’re going to be. But thank God, we ain’t what we was.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr., quoting a former slave, as quoted in Kristof's piece last night


This election was not about race for me, but today, this is what I'm relishing and crying and gushing about. I'm not blind, I know he isn't perfect, and I know the ship of our country might have only turned a degree or two last night. But it's an incredible moment that I have to mark here, almost 400 years after a Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food on our shore in 1619, and I can't help but weep, along with ". . . the souls of black folk, living and dead, [who] wept – and laughed, screamed and danced – releasing 400 years of pent up emotion."

From his victory speech last night:

That’s the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we’ve already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.


You can read his whole speech here.

34 comments:

Susan said...

Ruth, I'm still weeping every time I hear or see his words. I was at our county's campaign headquarters last night and I just kept getting cold chills all over every time they called another state. As soon as they called the election, we all ran out into the street with our signs and screamed with joy, jumping up and down! It was exhilarating and emotional and I haven't recovered yet.

And, yes, you are right, he isn't perfect. He will have a tough job ahead of him, but I'm trusting that he will put in place some of the brilliant minds of this country to counsel and guide him on this most difficult journey.

I was impressed by McCain's gracious speech and truly believe he wants to heal this country just as much as anyone.

gaz said...

i'm over the moon for you all...
he is the best man for the job. i agree, he has a very difficult time ahead of him, but you can see it in his eyes that he envisions a very different america to the one presented to the world over the last few years.
long may he serve...

laura said...

There are a lot of ways in which this victory is so satisfying and so hopeful, a redemption and a beginning. I keep thinking that Barack has done one thing that W. never did and, given his lack of imagination and empathy, never could: he has called on us, he has spoken about what we owe each other, what it means to be countrymen.
W. has left such a huge mess, but it seems to me that even if Obama/Biden can't "fix" all our problems, pulling us together, making us see that we have to care for one another, will do more than any policy could. It was that feeling that made the Great Generation rise from the Great Depression.

Christina said...

Your words are like poetry. Oh.. I ran down the stairs as though I was a child on christmas morning today, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming. And I wasn't!!!

Nice to meet you Ruth, I am Christina. : )

Nautankey said...

This man!! Don't know what to say..gave me goose bumps... Happy that the best of the two got the chair and it was people who decided their president and not a court..

a said...

now there you go getting my emotions up again for the upteenth time! I'm glad you connected with Christina:) and she you...... I loved what you wrote on her blog re: your dad...amazing stuff! These are good tears though, I feel a country exhaling today:) and it feels sooo good! xoxoxo

Sandy said...

It was a very moving speech! I hope our country is headed in a better direction now.

Still said...

Hello Ruth,
I am pleased of this event for you, for your country, for us all, for the hope in mankind, simply.
Have a nice day.

Ruth said...

I love all your comments. Thank you.

Do you, like me, also feel something else along with the elation? 1) watching Bush give his gracious speech welcoming Obama and his family to the White House this morning, I wondered at the pain of being him. I know, he screwed us up big time. But imagine being the reason Republicans didn't win, and all that lies at his door. Do I feel sorry for him? Yes, I kind of do. And 2) remembering what I heard recently that Obama expressed to someone in his campaign staff that he is very concerned about the incredibly high expectations out there, and that he will disappoint people.

These two stories chill me to my core. How different human experiences can be from each other! How profound and frightening a human life is, especially in a position of leadership of this crazy, wonderful, awful, terrifying, fascinating, challenging, aggravating country.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Amazing... I think souls of every color should be Celebrating this.. This is so wonderful.. So moving..

This man is the Leader and we all want to follow and I'm not even an American.. I know people all over the world are feeling this..

At this moment... He is The Most Important Man in the World...

the Whole Entire World...

No pressure...

He is not ordinary... protect him..

Babs (Beetle) said...

"Yes we can" has a ring of "I have a dream" about it. He would be so proud now!

shicat said...

My husband scolded me as I danced across the family room floor and shouted out the door. He told me I was acting far too immature. I told him that he was just tired and old and that he would do better going to bed.Off he went and as he rounded the corner to bed I tiptoed to the cupboard and, ever so quietly, reached for the fireworks.:0)

Rauf said...

black Kennedy, American Gandhi, people have started branding him Ruth. Thats a tragedy, too high expectations and an in surmountable task ahead.

The good thing is, Rest of the world would see America differently now, under a new fresh and bright light.

Anet said...

JOY!

Ginnie said...

Rauf is right: the rest of the world held their collective breath and is now starting to breathe again. This is a day of victory for the entire world! But it will still take the efforts and energy of all of us to help bring this victory to fruition!

Loring Wirbel said...

I'm with Rauf, let Obama be Obama, don't sanctify him. He changes the equation for foreign policy. But people sanctified JFK, which was wrong, as JFK was a very flawed president. Let's be careful NOT to hold out unreachable expectations for Obama.

alice said...

I'll be back later to read all the comments (you know I need time to do that!), but I wanted to tell you how I was happy! Our night has been quite short, here, in France, but so exciting! One or two degrees, sure, but what degrees! And your President speaks about peace, it feels good.
Avec toute mon amitié.

Peter said...

Even if McCain obviously is a real gentleman (nice speech he made) I’m so happy of the choice you made in US. It’s important for you over there, but the right choice is also so important for the rest of the world. I hope and trust that Obama will help bringing in another atmosphere all around the globe, and I believe the man has got what is needed for that. What he represents is what you and the rest of the world needed right now! Almost 90 % of the rest of the world would have voted for him and I believe that’s a good sign for a hopefully better understanding between people, religions, cultures... Many of us were so desperate to see how the US (your governors) have been on what we judged to be on the wrong track since some time. You are so important for all of us; we depend so much on you and the changed attitude that we now wait for will hopefully have lot of good to bring, for peace in the world ... and perhaps also for the economy – no easy tasks, but...

If you can make yourselves loved again all around the world and by all communities, the task for the terrorists will also be much tougher. This may be the best way to fight the terrorism!

Leena said...

Yes, all those words are true here in the comments.
We breath more free and are hoping, that our big neighbor will not test Obama`s leadership with any stupid thing more.
Perhaps people are a little like children before Christmas, but it makes so good feel like that even one moment.
And I can tell, that I was awake every two hours in that election night ( we had a night :)and watched from PC your results, it was so thrilling.
Everything will go in best way !

Leena said...

I forgot to say, that I have copied Obama`s speech in Finnish and I am going to give copies from it to my grandchildren, it is just that kind of speech, don`t you think?
It have to bee read now and then.

Ruth said...

This does feel big and important. A lot of people the world over have dreams for this man and are dancing around their family rooms (so funny, Cathy!) For others he's a nightmare, and they're very afraid. I hope he can bring those two groups closer together in the light of day. We can't all get what we want! It just seems like we have to start doing it all differently. We are the ones who need to change things. We need to change ourselves. That's his message for me.

Thank you all so much for your responses here.

Ruth said...

I should have written:

We each can't get everything we want!

Don said...

I think we are all ready for change, whether we all believe it or not is another matter altogether

photowannabe said...

A super-charged speach. I do hope that 6 months from now our country will still have that same spirit.
Its a challenge because we live in such a crazy, volitile world.

Bob Johnson said...

Who knows how he will do, there is so much crazyness going on in the world today, but I will say this,I grew up in a time (back in the sixties) that would leave me to believe we would never see a black person as President of the United States, speaks volumes on how far we have come as a society.

Hildegarde said...

A lot of his speech was on television here too, a very touching moment in history, the whole world watching.

shadow mountain jacobs farm said...

Amen! Loved his speach and the unique moment of the day. Hope for the future is here. So glad to hear so many positive people on your blog........

Marcie said...

I've watched..and listened..and read..and watched and listened and read this speech so many times..I've stopped counting. And every time - it leaves me with tears in my eyes.
YES HE CAN..and SO DID WE!!!!

Ruth said...

Millions the world over wanted to see the man who resembles Ray Milland in look and manner take a drink from a firehose, which is how a radio person described daily work in a presidential administration. I feel queasy with excitement and trepidation at the task ahead. Thank you all very much for expressing your thoughts and feelings at this exhilarating and sobering moment.

Deslilas said...

Congratulations !
It' easier to be an America lover nowadays. We are no longer divided between our admiration for your country and people and the awful image given during several years.
This election is a Xmas gift for our children and grand children some months ahead. Let's hope, the gift will last and succeed !

Moi said...

that night.... i wished i could have actively been a part of this change....could have "voted" for this change.......

Ruth said...

Hi Daniel, yes, it's nice to make the world happy for a change! Things can't help be a bit better, just having a different President in the White House.

Ruth said...

Moi, I wish you could have voted too! I have other non-citizen friends who were dying to vote. And also friends around the world who wished they could! Our government has such an impact on the world, it seems only fair that the rest of the world could vote. :)

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