“That is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected.” – Barack Obama, President-Elect of the United States of America
We all respond to history differently. But last night, at 8:01 p.m. when the news came in, I cried. Joy. Pride. Hope. The weight of our nation's ugly beginnings built on the backs of those who were not free. It all washed over me. So I cried. And I'm not ashamed in the least. As Rachel Maddow said upon hearing the historic results, “It's sort of worth crying about.”
The true impact of what America did yesterday won't be felt today, it won't be felt Jan. 20., it won't be felt in 2012 or possibly even 2108. Instead it will be felt in each generation of children who will grow up from this point forward truly believing their parents' oft-repeated encouragement that they can be anything they want to be. Because they can.
Will it happen overnight? Of course not. The road is indeed long. The climb is beyond steep. Our problems cannot be erased by one man, by one election or by one victory. The hard work of real change still lies ahead. But now at least we have a chance.
Yesterday, amid the celebration and excitement, came a painful reminder that progress is often imperfect. As I watched Obama win, I also watched California lose. Proposition 8, the initiative that would write discrimination into my state's constitution and take away the legal right that gays and lesbians now have to marry just like every other Californian seems on its way to victory. So as my heart bursts, it also breaks. Two steps forward, one step back.
Despite the truths we hold self evident, equality is hardly ever handed to us. We keep fighting because we must. And we keep fighting because we know we can win. It will take time – it always takes time. But if Barack Obama's triumph has taught us anything, it is that the things we once thought impossible are now possible. A man with a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, a man whose name most of America has never even heard of (let alone could pronounce) five years ago will become the 44th president of the United States of America. Can we create that more perfect union? Yes, you're damn right we can.