(A shorter version of this was published in The Telegram on Nov. 22, 2008)
From Australia, to Kenya, to Asia, people danced in the streets when it was projected that Barack Obama was President-Elect of the U.S. This election was like no other in U.S. history, and there may never be one where millions of people celebrate in American streets. After the news announcement, the change that took place was instant. The change was one of attitude, justice, and freedom.
How many black Americans watching last night, never dreamed of a black man being elected President in their lifetimes? Many watching had lived through extreme racist violence against them decades ago. They were not allowed to use the same washrooms, attend the same schools, or sit on the same buses. They can remember open hatred toward them, and heard stories from their parents and grandparents of slavery and lynchings.
Until only several generations ago, when you were born black it was inherent that you were not a full person, were different, and better get used to a life of frustration. It was not until the 1960s that all restrictions on the black right to vote were lifted. So being an American "untouchable" was as good as being a genetic trait for African-Americans.
Despite being frustrated by a sick and inhumane culture of discrimination black America proved its ability on every front. However, the top job in the country was never that realistic, until 1984 and '88 when Jesse Jackson ran in Presidential elections. He won 6.9 million votes in the latter. Another African American candidate, Alan Keyes, made several attempts for the office in 1996, 2000 and this year. He was a conservative Republican and some of his views was seen as too radical when running against Clinton. Yet, there has existed the "great black hope".
Four years ago, Senator Barack Obama delivered a keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. That speech introduced him to the world. His speech was delivered in a manner that made viewers take notice of him as a confident, passionate, insightful and promising leader. He spoke of unity in the country, the hope of the U.S. for success, and talked about peoples' similarities. His presentation caused waves in the media, and many foresaw him as a future leader, including this blogger. You could tell that he had special abilities.
Growing up as a black person, though his parents were black and white, it appears he realized that to be an accepted leader for the majority of Americans, it would take patience, an ever so gingerly tactful set of speeches, a demonstration of knowledge, an empathy with the needs of whites, blacks and all backgrounds. His influence must heavily be Martin Luther King who also had to demonstrate patience, understanding and strength.
One of Obama's great strengths is his elocution. In order to captivate his audience with carefully chosen words and appropriately accompanying gestures and expressions, he must have spent many many hours of rehearsing his campaign in his own mind. To give speeches that were acceptable to a mostly white America, took much historical perspective analysis on his part. He had to speak not with anger or an air of revenge, but with a message that directed people to view the future for what it could be, rather than remind Americans of past injustices.
Not only did he have what it took to get elected, but the political climate was ready for a breath of fresh air. With the morbid war years and the despised international image of the U.S. particularly under Bush, the time was right for this "right" African American candidate. In a way George Bush could be thanked for helping him get elected. McCain was seen in public as being a Bush ally, and that was a turn-off for many.
What Obama ignited with his 2004 speech flamed into a burning vision of a new America where there is pride in being racially equal, and non-discriminatory. It may have also lead to the sense of their nation being released from the burden of its own historical conscience. It is a new reason for America to be proud of itself, and it is the hope and underlined emancipation that made the world smile.