(Warning: Sentimental optimism ahead. Not for those with emotional-insulin deficiency or chronic cynicism.)
Ever since the amazing news last night that Barack Obama had won the presidential election, many of us have been repeating, “Yes we did!” But it pays to stop a moment and ask ourselves: What did we do? Because if we simply say, “We put a black man in the White House,” we will have told only a very tiny part of the story.
We chose the community organizer over the soldier.
We chose intelligence over witless platitudes.
We chose informed debate over homespun banality.
We chose articulate discourse over fevered rhetoric.
We chose calm reason over contentious quibbling.
We chose affirmation over denunciation.
We chose shared responsibility over greedy self-interest.
We chose the social contract over tribalism.
We chose unity over fragmentation.
We chose the ideal of peace over the reality of war.
We chose membership in the global community over world domination.
We chose quality of life over quantity of wealth.
We chose to be builders over hoarders.
We chose substance over form.
We chose the difficult, long road of progress over the facile dead-end of the status quo.
We chose change over stagnation.
But most importantly, we chose hope over fear.
Yes, we elected a black man president, and that is something as a nation of which we should be very proud. Yesterday’s election may be the end of that story, but it’s also the beginning of a long and complex story that has yet to be written, and which will not be completed during Barack Obama’s term.
Many are saying that too much is expected of Obama – that it will be impossible for him to deliver on all of his promises under current circumstances. And it’s true. This is far too much to put on the shoulders of one man. Which is why we need to remember what choices we made yesterday, so that we continue to make those choices again and again until we do begin to see the progress and to experience the changes we hope for. Too much for one man to shoulder, yes. But not too much for all of us to shoulder together.