America's Second Revolution
Obama-a Personification of Hope and Change
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our fathers is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
Barack Hussein Obama beginning his victory speech on November 4, 2008
Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, the US Declaration of Independence had considered it to be a self-evident truth that all men are created equal. It appears that it was belatedly ratified on November 4, 2008 by Barack Obama's winning of the presidency. It is indeed a victory for America, ushering in a new post-racial era. Some of us were fortunate to witness and savour the historic change in our own lifetime. Imagine the contrast and irony- a first-generation African American, whose grandfather was herding goats in a remote village in Kenya is about to live with his family as the president in the White House, which was built partly with slave labour. Not very long ago, the great-grand father of Michelle, wife of the President-elect Barack Obama, was a slave in America. Considering that till 1956 there were laws in America segregating races in public buses and voting rights to the blacks were effectively only granted in 1965, the country has truly come a long way.
In a January 18, 2008 article “The Audacity of Hope: Obama Phenomenon” in the Star magazine, this author ventured to predict that if Obama won the Democratic Party nomination he would win the presidency. That was written when he had won only the Iowa caucus, the first in a long primary election contest with the formidable Senator Hillary Clinton, who had name recognition, money and the Democratic political machine behind her. Despite the odds, Obama won the nomination by virtue of his mesmerising and uplifting oratory, a competently managed and disciplined campaign and a convincing message of hope and change, which encouraged people's enthusiastic participation in the political process as never before and led to the registration of a large number of new voters.
Obama won the presidency not because the black people voted overwhelmingly for him, but because the majority of the young, women, Latinos and people of high education and high income voted for him. And many independents and even some registered Republicans voted for the Democratic ticket. However, the most significant fact is that nationally 43 percent of the white voters supported Obama. The so-called Bradley effect, where the white voters tell the pollsters that they support the black candidate but carry their racial prejudice into the privacy of the polling booth and actually vote for the opponent, did not materialise. Nationally, Obama carried 52.6 percent of the total votes cast compared to 46 percent cast for Senator McCain- a genuine war hero, a white senator of many years from
Arizona and whose father and grand-father were admirals in US navy. McCain fought hard but could not stand against the tide of history. As he said a few days before the elections with self-deprecating humour, “Maverick I can be, but Messiah is above my pay grade.”
The victory of Obama was possible only in America, where the Declaration of Independence stated in memorable Jeffersonian words that “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” were inalienable rights of all men. That promise of America came to fruition and became universally available only in recent years. We had high hopes that Americans would entrust a black man to be its president, however able and brilliant he might be, at this critical time of economic and political challenges for the country was beyond most people's imagination.
Yet, inspirational and transformational as he is, Obama comfortably sailed through, winning state after state and ending with a large mandate in terms of the electoral college vote and the popular vote. His combination of intelligence and eloquence, along with his instinct for consensus stirred the younger and the highly educated people. To them and many others he truly represented hope and change. People believed that he would unite the country for what Obama, quoting from the US Constitution, described as a 'more perfect union.' He won because American people judged him, as Dr. Martin Luther King had said in his famous1963 'I have a dream' speech: “not by the colour of his skin, but the content of his character.” In forty-five years since that speech, Dr. King's dream has come true in a big and historic way. At the Grant Park in Chicago on the election night on the fourth of November, Obama delivered an electrifying victory speech late at night in front of a quarter of a million people who were weathering cold and drizzle. He called for humility, patriotism, fellow feeling and a shared destiny. Many were ecstatic and some were shedding tears of joy and disbelief, among them was Reverend Jesse Jackson, a veteran civil rights leader. He was one of the people standing beside Dr. King in a motel balcony in Memphis in 1968 as he was shot dead for campaigning for the rights of the black people.
Obama has promised to be inclusive and the president of all people, including those who did not vote for him. Instead of cynicism and despair, his emphasis is on hope and belief in change to a new America. His slogan is “yes, we can.” The enthusiasm he has generated, not only in USA but throughout the world, can not but lead to a more harmonious relationship in America and between the countries of the world. America is most likely to regain its lost prestige under President Obama. A break with the policies and actions of the past eight years under George Bush was necessary. And with Obama's election, change has come to America. The Washington Post in its editorial on November 5 wrote: “It is momentous for the generation change it heralds, the geographic realignment it reflects and the racial progress it both acknowledges and promises.” Let me end this write-up by quoting President-elect Obama as he concluded his victory speech: “The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America-I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you-we as a people will get there.”
(R) thedailystar.net 2008