I’m surprised blogger is even working; I know so many people are out there doing what I am: telling their stories.
On this historic night, on this night that will be recorded in history books and web archives forever, everyone wants to put pen to paper (so to speak) about their own feeling on this election. If not for you readers to read, then for my own family to read someday. For my daughter to read in 20 years and know what she was like, what she did, on the day that the nation changed. The day our nation made a giant leap from a time when 40 years ago, a black man couldn’t vote, when 100 years ago, a woman couldn’t vote, to tonight, when we elect a black man as president.
I sobbed as I read his speech (missed it while working tonight). I’ll no doubt sob when I watch it later when it shows up on youtube. I am struck not only by his eloquence, but his ability to speak to all people, Republican and Democrat, men and women, black, white, Asian, Hispanic and other world citizens. He speaks to all of us when he says that we can change.
We can, and we have.
“This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.
And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.
At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.
A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.
And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.”
I think tonight of not only this woman, who at 106 has seen more change in this world than you and I can even fathom. I think tonight of all the people I know who voted for the very first time in this election, because they finally felt it not only important enough to vote for change, but that they could actually affect that change. I think tonight of all the people who don’t believe they can affect change, and to them, I say, Yes We Can. If you didn’t vote today, I hope today’s election, and the surprise that it’s held will convince you to do so next time.
Tonight, November 4th, 2008, I think about how hopeful I am for the future. Hopeful that President-elect Obama will do what needs to be done. Hopeful that he’ll face few obstacles in affecting the change he (and so many of us) desire. Hopeful that he’ll be able to accomplish an economic turn around, an end to the current wars, and a positive environmental impact. Hopeful that he’ll protect the rights of women (and men) who seek choices, whether those choices are about equal pay for jobs, whether or not to have a child, or a union. Hopeful that after 4 (or preferably, 8) years in office, he’ll leave a country that I’m proud to offer up to RE, who will then be nearly 11 years old.
And speaking of her, since this blog is usually primarily about her, I’ll tell you her thoughts of the day.
Mommy: Ry, are you ready? We’re going to vote!
Ry: We’re going on a boat?
M: Noooo, we’re going to Vote. V. V. V.
R: Oh, Vote. Ok.
Get to polling station, very excited, because though I am a cynic, elections honestly make me swell with pride. And usually cry.
Get in, get stickers for us both, and set her up with a bag of goodies to play with while I vote.
R: What you doing, mommy?
M: Filling in bubbles.
R: On the boat?
M: Nope, kiddo. No boat. Vote. V. V. V.
R: Oh, vote. Can me see?
M: Sure. (put RE on back in Pikkolo so she can see over my shoulder)
R: Where bubbles come from mommy? There? (points to corner of voting booth)
M: Oh, shoot. Nope, no real bubbles, Ry. Just these bubbles, the circles on the page.
So, all in all, while I was gushing left and right about how important it is to vote, and how our foremothers fought for our right to vote, she’s sitting there pouting because not only was there no boat, but no bubbles either.
So, today, RE, I voted for you. I voted for my grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, and for all the women in my family who weren’t able to vote, either because they were women, or because they were not yet American citizen. I take my citizenship seriously, though over the last 8 years I often joked about moving to Canada, and I take my ability to vote seriously. I choose not to take it for granted that people fought and died so that I could waltz into a polling station, in pants, with my two year old daughter, and cast my vote for change.
Tonight, I’m really proud to be an American. (cliche though it is)