Staying Up Late to Watch History

I had a busy day today and I knew I would have to get up early, but I love election night.  I always feel excited about watching what is happing across the nation.  OK, I understand I am not really watching what is happening right then, just the prediction of the summary of what happened throughout the day, but still, it is exciting and I like to watch it unfold.

Any election is somewhat historic.  It marks a transition of power that unlike so many in the world, is peaceful and (for the most part) fair.  Aside from attempts to keep people from registering to vote, most adults can register and then vote.  That in itself is pretty amazing.  This election was certainly the most historic in my lifetime.  Barack Obama came from a modest background to be elected president of the most wealthy and powerful nation in earth.  Not bad.

I watched Fox News throughout the night because that is the only channel we get that does not have a double image or simply fuzz.  We do not have cable or a satellite dish (why pay at least $30 per month to get a few channels we want and 40 we don’t?) so we make do with what we can receive.  We get our news from The New Yorker, Mother Jones, The New York Times and lots of online sources.  Television news usually doesn’t make the cut in terms of quality or quantity.

But last night I wanted to watch, to see things unfold with sound and pictures.  I was glad I did.  I was skeptical of the Fox News coverage, which seemed to be focused on being the first to report who won each state.  At every milestone they would call a winner for several states.  At 10:00 they were calling the winner in states where polls had just closed.  Literally no results were officially in and they were predicting a winner for the presidential race.  It was hard to believe.  Remember Florida?

At 11:00, right when polls closed on the west coast, and with two states’ polling places still open, they announced Barack Obama the winner.  I was at first, again, skeptical but soon understood that I no longer had to wonder if this man would pull it off.  He did.  And come January, we will have our first president to break through the color barrier.   That is one for the history books.  I had considered going to bed once I heard a result, but I realized I needed to be a witness, in the moment, to history.

That is plenty to celebrate, but Obama’s speech made me cry.  He was humble and honest and inspiring, not because he turned out the usual political jargon, but because he understood that this moment is only partly about him.  It is about this nation and what we have the potential to become.  It is about moving forward in a new and positive way.  He showed in that speech that he understands that we need to make sacrifices and that we all need to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  We can’t sit back and wait for him to do it.  We need to be the change agents ourselves.  I was moved that he said that this is really just the opportunity, the chance to change things.  His election is not change.  We need to make that happen.

He inherits some damaged goods.  I can’t imagine doing the amount of work he will need to do to begin the process of healing the wounds of divisiveness we have faced internally and to create a new image of the United States in the world.  i was dumbfounded when George W. Bush was elected the first time.  i couldn’t even believe he had become the nominee.  I was doubly baffled when he was elected to a second term.  We got what we chose, and I hope enough of us can see that now.  We have work to do and I believe our new president can see much of what needs to be done.  Whether we can really get it done, well, that is up to you and me.

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