Never in my lifetime have I cast a vote for any presidential candidate I believed in as much as Barack Obama. Never in my lifetime have I cast a vote for a candidate I believed in this much who actually won. Yes, it’s been a politically lonely few decades going back to when I first started voting.
I only wish Martin Luther King had lived to see this day. If he had lived, perhaps he would’ve preceded Barack Obama as the first black president.
I was immensely moved to see Jesse Jackson’s tears during the CNN broadcast of Obama’s victory speech. You can only imagine the swirl of emotions he must have been feeling as the first widely popular black Democratic presidential primary candidate (running in 1988).
TV pundits noted that the victory speech and celebration were both joyful and subdued at the same time. Partly, this is because the nation faces some of the worst economic news since FDR was inaugurated in 1932. Partly, this is because the full enormity of the first black president in U.S. history is something slightly overwhelming.
Obama’s speech was literally gorgeous. He was exceedingly gracious to John McCain I thought. He didn’t just pay lip service to the loser. He actually made extended remarks appreciating the man’s entire life and career.
For me, the highlight was this passage. As he delivered it I turned to my wife and said: “My God, it’s been eight years since we’ve been able to hear a president talk like this:”
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.
For that is the true genius of America that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This is worthy of Obama’s great predecessors Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Let us hope that he realizes these principles as he governs.
As I looked at Barack Obama share the stage with his lovely family I said: “Is this what Haman or Hitler could possibly look like?” And I felt deep shame that some of my fellow Jews would actually believe some of the absurd, hateful ideas that they do about this man. While it’s true that he’s not a god, nor a miracle worker (and Republicans will quickly try to make that clear back in Congress), he’s not a devil either. For the life of me, I cannot understand the demonization that groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition, Orthodox Jews and other pro-Israel right wingers attempted to use against him.
Though I am satisfied that the people have spoken and soundly rejected their hate. The verdict of history will confirm it.
Richard, thanks for your thoughtful, joyful words. When I heard earlier that Obama had clinched it, I cried. This has felt like such a long journey. I have appreciated your tireless advocacy for Obama. His election gives me some hope for my (our) country.
From his beautiful, powerful speech on race from what seems like forever ago, to the general up and down politicking of this campaign, it has been an extraordinary, interesting, learning, growing experience. From the heart of darkness of the last eight years, Barack Hussein Obama’s win presents the possibility of a return to some semblance of Enlightenment values and a civilized nation. I’m happy that so many of my compatriots seem ready and eager for that change.
Dan Sniderman says
I am so proud of my country this moment. I’m so happy that a man one year older than me who shared his formative adult years in the same city as me is now leading this country in these difficult times.
My mother has spoken of the feelings she had voting for JFK and seeing him elected. This is my JFK moment!
James F says
Great post 🙂
First thing I did when I got to work this morning (I live in the UK) was check the BBC news page to see who’d won. And then I smiled – a good day indeed. Lets hope it’s the first of many.
Not only was Obama very complementary and respectful of McCain, it seemed the feeling was somewhat mutual. McCain’s speech was very good, he had to calm the crowd down who booed every mention of Obama’s name, but I think he was a great example of grace in defeat.
From a foreigner’s perspective, I truly hope Obama can bring a turnaround for international opinion of America, because it’s slipped quite badly under the Bush administration.
the wing-nuts – orthodox and otherwise – will come around in a matter of weeks or months when they realize that the republican machine was just manipulating them all along and that nobody in the machine believed any of the smears. richard, news flash, obama is not going to rule as a radical liberal – he’s enunciated a centrist liberal path and he will have a hard time hewing even to that. the regular right will continue its pressure more effectively after bush & co slink off back under their rocks. ps: i do remember pulling the lever as a kid to vote for JFK – my mom always took me along to vote at julia richman high school on 68th street and second. i doubt my 2 year old granddaughter will remember going along to the polling place in Brooklyn with her father Barak to vote for Barack. I trust she will have another chance when she is six years old – and at that time my son will have to explain why that Barack spells his name wrong.
jim s says
It is great. I just hope that he is more radical in economic and fiscal policies and more even-handed in Middle Eastern policies.
John Dickerson says
“One Tiny Step for Mankind”
3 recommended articles on Obama’s choice for Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel:
Andrew Cockburn: Meet Rahm Emanuel
John Walsh: How Rahm Emanuel Has Rigged a Pro-War Congress
John Walsh: Emanuel’s War Plan for Democrats
John Dickerson says
Now the Muslims will want to drink the blood of our white babies!
John Dickerson says
After thinking about it, I suspect it might be very clever of President-elect Obama to name Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. Remember, Obama (unlike Bush) is no stooge. He will stay informed, and he will call the shots.
Rahm Emanuel’s appointment does not bode well for moderation in the Middle East:
He is considered the most hard-line supporter of Israel, sometimes more so than Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel. “We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror,” Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush. The letter said that Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders “was clearly justified as an application of Israel’s right to self-defense” (“Pelosi supports Israel’s attacks on Hamas group,” San Francisco Chronicle, 14 June 2003).
He supported Israel’s war on Lebanon. For his statement: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/il05_emanuel/HRES921.html
He attacked Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al Maliki, because Maliki had labeled Israel’s attack on Lebanon as an act of “aggression.” Emanuel called on Maliki to cancel his address to Congress.
As chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), he worked hard to guarantee that Democratic candidates in key toss-up House races [in 2006] were pro-war. In this he was largely successful, because of the money he commands and the celebrity politicians who reliably respond to his call, ensuring that 20 of the 22 Democratic candidates in these districts are pro-war.
(John Walsh, The Book of Rahm:Emanuel’s War Plan for Democrats, Counterpunch)
While most of the country opposes the Iraq war, Congressman Rahm Emanuel has steadfastly supported it, voting for every single one of Bush’s war funding bills.
See also http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9939.shtml, “Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post.”
I think we need to stop referring to “Orthodox Jews.” full stop, as being anti-Obama. True they voted for McCain in much higher percentage than other Jews, but plenty of orthodox Jews voted for Obama. I look forward to seeing the estimates when they come out. Also, you should know that there was a group “Orthodox Jews for Barack Obama,” that worked very hard to combat he lies and win him votes in the orthodox community.
Take a look at the comments on this link, to cite just one example, you’ll see the orthodox world is not politically monolithic.
Richard Silverstein says
I was referring to several attacks on Obama by Orthodox Jews including one reported here by a writer for the Agudath Israel blog which likened him to Haman. Orthodox Jewish settlers also displayed an image of him as a Nazi Brownshirt on their blog. Israeli Americans voted for McCain by a 3 to 1 margin because many are Orthodox. The Clarion Fund, an Aish HaTorah front group, also campaigned against Obama (though somewhat surreptitiously).
I’m not claiming all Orthodox Jews hate Obama. I applaud those who don’t. But many do.