The poet Langston Hughes wrote of America as the place "that never was and yet must be/ the land where every man is free." We aren't there, of course; we are not all equal nor all free and some of us usually go to bed hungry. But we are a lot closer to Hughes's vision today than we were yesterday because we have elected a black man to be our president.
"Change has come," Barack Obama said, and of course he's right. I'm 78, old enough to remember Martin Luther King saying that he could see the Promised Land but wouldn't get there. Obama's there. If you'd asked me, twenty or thirty years ago if I would live to see this day, I think I'd have said no. I am delighted to have been wrong.
President-elect Obama (have to get used to typing that) may of course wish he hadn't sought the job. He inherits two wars, an economy in serious trouble, a declining manufacturing base which means Americans will need better education to compete in the new technological environment--well, I could go on but you get the idea. Still, one big barrier has come down. Mothers of any color can tell their two year-olds, hey, you can grow up to be president. In fact, after Hillary Clinton's formidable campaign, they can say it to girls as well as boys.
One of the songs the civil rights marchers used to sing goes, "Gonna keep on a-walkin', keep on a-walkin', till we get to Freedom Land." We're not there yet, but yesterday we covered a lot of ground.
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