Wednesday, November 5, 2008

happy november 5th

Something about sitting at a folding table in a gym, with a golf pencil and a list of names alongside ovals needing to be filled in-- sigh -- just feels so empowering. It's a moment where being one person means a lot. I'm young, and I have been indifferent in the past. But yesterday was exciting and inspiring. I skipped out of the polling place -- where, by the way, I didn't wait one second in a line. Every election is a piece of history, some more profound than others; it is a great privilege not only to be witness to this history but be a participant in history. Not by which candidate's name I circle, but by voting at all.
McCain's speech was remarkably good, and you should visit my friend's site to read a much more eloquent depiction of the night than I will provide.
McCain said:

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans ... I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited. Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

Not necessarily so different from the message Obama gave on March 18. Yes, McCain's speech is about supporting the president and Obama's is about race relations. The main point in both, however, seems to be that we all have to find common ground in order to fully succeed.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that
this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union
may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can
always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or
cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next
generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change
have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta. There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there. And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care.

They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom. She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too. Now Ashley might have made a different choice.

Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many
generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty
one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is
where the perfection begins.


Jennie said...

Oh! I'm teary and goosebumpy.

d. said...

Most excellent.

Now the only thing we have left to do is everything else.

sarah said...