Since I lost the election for school treasurer in 10th grade, I haven’t cried over an election. But back then, in the early days of the civil rights movement, I could have never imagined this night– or that I would live to see it. Seeing thousands of people pouring into the streets spontaneously to celebrate, all over the world, seemed to embody the person and the message of Barack Obama.
So much emotion, so much history, so much at stake—with a perfect ending. His speech was pitch-perfect, and I’ve already watched it twice more. I have been glued to the screen for hours–and to my eyes, everything was perfect (with the possible exception of Michelle’s dress). Four years after we re-elected George W. Bush, could there be a better signal to the world? Could any words speak louder than the picture of the Obama and Biden families gathered onstage?
Best of all was the surge of hope–to feed a starving country. As if Obama took a fresh batch of cookies out of the oven, and the smell floated all over the world, impossible to resist. John McCain recognized the perfection of the moment and responded with his own best speech of the whole campaign.
Even McCain seemed to sense what seems clear–the feeling of destiny that surrounds Obama. It struck me a few months ago when I read a random comment on a blog.
The comment was about Barack Obama’s parents. It seems amazingly random–an 18-year old white woman from Kansas meets a Kenyan student in Hawaii. Seeing the picture of them, knowing how short their marriage was, it seems clear they were not meant to be a couple. Looking back, you wonder whether fate brought these two people together for one reason and one reason only: to create Barack Obama.
Their story, his story, his election–is so unlikely it wouldn’t even be believable as a fairy tale. Maybe I’ve lived in California too long–but I think the universe played its part to line up everything necessary for President Obama to happen. He plans a celebration party outdoors in Chicago in November—and the temperature is 70 degrees?? That’s not global warming; that’s destiny.
Even the death of his grandmother seems fated. Losing your parents is a rite of passage. No matter how old or frail they are, it’s a defining moment when you step up into a new stage of life, when the generations before you are gone. So the timing of Obama’s loss struck me as almost eerie–as if the universe sent him a message that this is his time of transition— not only in his own family, but for his country.
The presidency is not only a privilege, but a burden. Obama wears it well but I suspect he’s already feeling it. Tonight when he stepped onto the stage, it seemed to me as if he is already shouldering the unimaginable responsibiities of the presidency. As if he has already taken on the burden that is his destiny. Fortunately for our country, his destiny is also ours.