Planes, Trains, Automobiles … and a New President-Elect

I knew, back in June, when I booked my trip to Seattle and realized I would be in the air for Election Day

Barack Obama, president-elect

Barack Obama

(don’t worry, I voted absentee), that it would be an interesting day.

Leaving Seattle, a city of social conscience, coffee and clouds for a layover in Phoenix did a lot to illustrate how big and different our country is in geography, personality and politics.  When I left Phoenix at 4:55pm MST there weren’t any real election results.  Some early polls from Kentucky and Indiana were reporting wins for McCain and Obama respectively, but there wasn’t any big news.  The sunset colored the mountains of the Southwest orange-pink persimmon, and the colors and the landscape slowly faded to indigo-hued colored plains of the Midwest.   Soon it was too dark to see, except for scattered lights of cities and larger towns.  I got involved in a delicious mystery novel and took a break from pressing my nose to the window.

Bright lights outside the window caught my eye and I realized we were flying over Chicago.  It was about 10:00pm EST, and I wondered: were the people of Chicago happy?  Sad?  What was happening in Grant Park?  How was it going?  I asked the flight attendant if there was any news but she didn’t know.  Not really one for praying, I nonetheless sent out a little prayer and thought how wonderful it would be to land and know that the world had changed for the better.

The American public granted my prayer, along with may other people’s prayers around the world.  Last night, when Barack Obama made his acceptance speech and I raced up Essex Street to my apartment, we made the first big step to repairing the damange done by the previous administration, especially in regards to foreign relations.  I shed a few tears listening to Obama’s speech, but what got me was the world’s reaction, chronicled here, here, here (interesting perspective from US troops in Iraq) and here (love the BBC for going for the juggular).  The joy, the concern, the myriad of emotions from Iraq, Iran, Kenya, Japan, Austrailia … it is almost overwhelming.

President-elect Obama has a lot of work to do, not the least of which is to manage the expectations of the world and of the people.  The world will not be healed, wars will not end, the economy will not right itself the moment he steps into office.  There is a lot of work to do – hard work, work that is not going to be fun or easy.  Yet the old agage is true: many hands make light work.  This is a call to positive action that has not yet been seen in my (albeit short) lifetime.  It is a call we cannot ignore.

Our grandparents remember where they were for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Our parents remember where they were for the assassination of JFK.  Our generation remembers where we were when the towers in New York City fell.  But we will also remember where we were when we found out that Barack Obama would be the new president of the United States.  I can’t think of a better way to put it than Obama did last night: “This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.”

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