For Christmas/Hanukkah (I’m a half-Jew, after all) in 2005, my parents gave me Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father. In it, my mom (she’s the Jewish one), who was born and raised in Chicago, wrote on the title page with clear prescience:
Dear Kevin … Hope you enjoy this. He might be the next US president from Illinois.
And so it is. I don’t really know what to say. We spent most of the evening at my brother’s, surrounded by friends and family. I’ve never felt so invested in politics, and there I was, pretending not to cry (thanks to my brother for turning down the lights). My mom said she’d never felt so hopeful for a candidate since John F. Kennedy. It was a transcendent moment that needed no explanation. Everyone was cheering without shame; like when people clap at the end of a movie, only this time you felt like joining them. This was a time to be proud and grateful. Did you see Jesse Jackson cry? Did that not move you? Have you a soul?
Credit to John McCain, whose concession speech was classy as they come – the best speech he’s given on this campaign (prepared well in advance, I presume). But Obama … there is a confidence not just in what he says but how he says it. His diction is graceful, delivery flawless. He exudes strength. I could watch his speech on mute and feel the power. What an amazing speech, full of hope, promise and humility.
(My favorite part of the day, actually, is that Obama played some pickup ball earlier in the day … f*cked around and got a triple-double!)
I was really a part of something historic. Something to remember. I got to watch my 5-year-old niece, Quinn, stay up with us (she didn’t go to bed until 10 p.m.!). This won’t make sense to her now, but it will soon, and I hope she can remember staying up so late to watch this.
Then, my wife – so reserved and soft spoken – sent me an e-mail in the aftermath; I was still out while she responsibly called it a night. For as much as Obama’s speech inspired and moved me – moved all of us – Annie uncharacteristically spilled her heart on paper. As I fight to express how I feel, no words could have touched me more than hers:
“I always cry. Anyone that knows me knows that I cry. I mean anything from cotton commercials to watching ‘Intervention,’ I cry all the time lately. Maybe it’s stress, maybe it’s the diet, maybe it’s ‘that time of the month,’ but truly, I cry all the time. Tonight I think it was valid. I started the day like anyone else, excited to vote. I got up at 5:15 this morning so I could get to polls early and still make it to work on time. I got to the polls right around 6 am and waited, like all other good citizens, for about a little over an hour. It was well worth it.
“Being a female minority from Arizona, I’m used to being a little different. Not a huge difference exists, I admit. I’ve never had any problems where I grew up or how I grew up. But you can never forget where you’re from, but that’s another topic. My point is, I work and live around some outstanding people in Phoenix, AZ. Many of my best friends are conservative. But I have always felt differently. But never until tonight have I felt so strong and courageous about my future and the future of my family. So many conservatives are speaking negatively, and I feel like it’s all coming from a place of fear. They are so afraid of a new beginning, a possibility of a clean slate.
“The best part about tonight was looking at my 5-year-old niece and thinking, this is all for you, Quinn. You will remember all of this and it will be the one of the most memorable parts of the rest of your life. And then I thought about how my first presidential election that I was ready to vote in when I was 18; I voted for Bill Clinton. I was ecstatic. I think I even registered at an R.E.M. concert on their “Monster” tour. I wanted that experience for Quinn, to remember this moment in history when democracy was what it was meant to be, powered by people like us.
“So I cried. Not sobbed, mind you. But I shed a tear because I’m an adult now and I made a choice that is going to drive the future of my nieces and nephew and possibly my own future children. A tear fell because the speech that my future president made was full of modesty and humility, things that I try to model myself to. I shed a tear mostly because I am excited for what the future holds. I am not scared or hiding in a place of fear, but I am hopeful and ready for where the next day takes me.”