In February 2007 when Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president I thought to myself, “He’s black and he’s going to try to be the president?! He has wishful thinking”. To be honest, I didn’t think that America was ready to make such a big step. I mean, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for this very equality just 40 years ago. And as a black American, I have had some experiences to confirm my skepticism. So on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 my eyes grew wide, a smile slowly spread, and tears slowly streamed down my face as CNN announced the next president of the United States of America to be Barack Obama.
I remember my dad and grandma who are no longer physically with me but I know they’re grinning where they stand about how far this country has come. I remember the stories told to me of my mother’s childhood. Her family is from Georgia – the south - where the brunt of racism took place. She would visit them for the summers and not be able to use the same restrooms as whites or eat in the public dining areas. Her grandfather was a runaway slave who never thought that the day would come where black Americans could vote, much less the country elect one. One summer my mom caused so much “trouble” by making her elderly grandmother sit in the front of the bus, she was sent home to New York early. My dad participated in the March on Washington of 1963 and heard Dr. King deliver his famous speech live.
I thought of all the black history that I have been a witness to in my short 28 years. When I was 14, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. General Colin Powell was the first black American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first black American to be the United States Secretary of State. Condoleezza Rice was the first black American woman to be the United States Secretary of State and the list goes on. But never did I think that a black American would run my country in my lifetime.
I have to say that I have never been so proud to be an American. This country has truly turned a corner. We have fulfilled Dr. King’s dream. We have judged based on Obama’s competence, future plans and the fact that we were tired of the way things have been run for the last eight years. The color of his skin wasn’t the issue; the way he planned to run the country was. Today, I still smile with wide, tear filled eyes every time I see his face on the news or a picture of him in the newspapers. I have a feeling that my reaction will last for a while. President-Elect Obama has a huge job ahead of him, a lot of hard work, but my faith tells me that if we all work hard, things will get better.