Just over 45 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington, D.C., where he said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
On the night of Nov. 4, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama fulfilled that dream when he was elected the first black president of the United States. It was a night of historic proportions.
After nearly two years of campaigning by Obama, first against the powerful Clinton political machine and then against veteran Sen. John McCain, a respected war hero, the American people emphatically spoke. They did something that most, particularly blacks, thought they would not see in their lifetime—they overwhelmingly elected an African–American to the highest office in the land. To the credit of both camps, race was not made an issue during the campaign.
Only one to two generations ago, the president-elect would have been considered a second-class citizen in many parts of the United States, particularly the South. Lynchings occurred as late as the 1960s, often as a deterrent to voter registration of blacks.
Institutionalized segregation was still rife in the 1960s, represented most dramatically by Governor George Wallace of Alabama. Yes, bigotry and racial anxiety remain in the United States, with groups like the Ku Klux Klan, White Supremacists, and Neo-Nazis still in existence.
However, this election clearly showed that mainstream Americans have largely overcome such racist sentiments as they elected Sen. Barack Obama despite his race. At the very least, this opens the door for all races—whether black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or others, as well as the door that Hillary Clinton opened even further for women—to pursue their dreams.
It has shown that the ideals of America are still alive—that anyone can become anything they want if they are qualified. President-elect Barack Obama has become the epitome of the American dream.
This historic event was also molded by external factors, as most major events are, especially the economic meltdown as well as the unpopular war in Iraq and an even more unpopular incumbent president.
President-elect Obama tapped into this disquiet in the country during the Iowa primary, and the eloquent message of hope and inspiration he enunciated for two years touched the hearts of many, both in the United States and around the world. He sensed the desire for change and the need to inspire a nation, unraveling at the seams, with hope.
In extreme times, one can never underestimate the intangibles, as it is these very intangibles that often make the difference. Under the extreme circumstances that Americans now face, they need to have hope that things will get better, and they looked for someone who could instill that hope and inspiration in them for change. President-elect Obama showed that he possesses this rare gift.
In defeat, Sen. McCain was most gracious in his concession speech, “These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him [President-elect Obama] tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.
“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill 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.
“I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president.”
In his acceptance speech, President-elect Obama reiterated the need for Americans to come together and give their support in these trying times.
“As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, ‘We are not enemies, but friends … though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.’ And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.”
Regardless of race, creed, or gender, people must now forego their partisanship and work together to overcome the many trials facing the nation and the world. No one man and no one party can do this alone.
The Wall Street crash has clearly demonstrated that a catastrophe on this scale happens to everyone, not just Republicans or Democrats, not just blacks, whites, or other races, not just men or women, not just atheists, Christians, or people of other faiths—it happens to all Americans and then spills over to affect the world.
It is time for all Americans to come together and work for the good of everyone, for the good of the country and the world. Both Sen. John McCain and President-elect Barack Obama clearly understand this and have promised to work towards this end.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.