Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Do you remember how you felt on this day last year? This HISTORICAL day?! I do. But it can be easy to forget the absolute JUBILATION of that momentous day ... especially if you listen to the way the media does its daily spin. Two states win Gubernatorial elections yesterday for Republicans, and suddenly the country is rebuking President Obama. Last night we watched the remarkable new HBO documentary, By The People: The Election Of Barack Obama. All the flooding emotions roared back ... the angst of the campaign, the chin up despite the nay-sayers (I was on board from the BEGINNING. I have emails from Obama's Illinois Senate Office before he ever decided to run. I BELIEVED.), the drama, the anger, the fun, the HOPE, and finally, the TRIUMPH! Man. What an epic day. For ALL time.

There are some who want to bag on our wonderful 44th President, (Honestly. The positive difference between him and our last joker/War Criminal is so stark it's alarming. And laughable that there are people that have the nerve to complain one iota about the elegant man who is 44.) for not having done enough yet, or to their personal liking ("We do not see things as they are, we seem them as we are." - Anais Nin), or they are afraid, or straight out racist. What they fail to realize is how FAR we've come around the world in the one year since the election. Rather, how far we as a Nation came OVERNIGHT from the election. The world-wide celebration, hope and support for our new President and we citizens exploded in a burst of heart-felt JOY, that is still being felt today, if you open your ears beyond the network news. And that IS a feat deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize ... certainly if you traveled or listened to anyone from anywhere else during the last reign of - literally - terror. We are a NEW nation, from November 4, 2008 ... and for always. Remember - and CELEBRATE - that fact. And join together to help our President not only clean up our huge messes, but better us as a Country, and as a People.

So ... to help you conjure up those elated memories ... I share my piece from the day after last year's election with you now:
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America."

That was how PRESIDENT ELECT BARACK OBAMA (!!!) began his historical victory speech last night ... and that is how I too shall begin, as I DID have my doubts and my fears, but I also had my hopes and my dreams - and last night, November 4th, 2008, Hope beat Fear.

It's been four long years since Barack Obama burst into my life, when I heard him speak at the 2004 Democratic Convention. I have not wavered an instant since then in thinking (and being pretty vocal about), "THAT is who I want as my President". Twenty four hours ago, it finally happened ... and I'm still an elated, happily crying mess of joy.

I am only one of 63+ Million American voters who made this day happen. There are as many inspiring stories, and am proud to have my own to share when I'm an old woman looking back on this monumental day.

After being SO inspired by hearing Senator Obama speak at the '04 Convention, I looked him up online. I donated a couple of bucks, as a thank you for giving me chills. (I still have the 2005 email response, thanking ME!) I read his books, growing more impressed. I started talking to my friends and relatives about this guy from Illinois, who talked about America like I remembered THINKING about America as a kid, but had lost in the last very dark eight years. I knew (or was told) that it was probably "too soon" for him to run, but I've always had big dreams. I kept hoping.

Buzz grew, speculation whirled ... and then early in 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for President. I was on board immediately. Interestingly, my thoughts and feelings are still pretty far to the left of Obama's ... but it didn't matter so much, because underneath it all was and is my desire for the States of America to truly be UNITED - and I saw this unique man as interested in that unity above all else.

So began the blog writing, the emails to friends who'd never heard of the guy (and probably weren't that interested at the time), the squeezing into rallies, the phone banking (and getting hung up on), the donating every chance I could, and the constant chatter, trying to get people to listen. It was interesting and challenging, trying to get people involved, when while most of my friends think along the same lines as myself, many are more radical and don't trust any politician. Or they liked Hillary. Or they didn't think Obama had a chance.

I was scoffed at - "Yeah, good luck with that, Carol. America isn't ready for a Black President". I was told that my letters of support for Obama were "Hate Mail" by an old friend. I traveled abroad and had to defend my hopes for a new America to people that had given up on us, and really now saw us (the Government, not the people, I hoped) as the Evil Empire. As I was beginning to myself.

But then it caught on. Volunteer meetings ran out of chairs. People stood for HOURS to get into rallies. People stopped hanging up, and instead volunteered their OWN time. Obama's fundraising went through the roof. Everyone started PAYING ATTENTION! Feeling the same HOPE that I felt.

And then the Iowa Caucuses happened last January. I vividly remember sitting in the car, listening to NPR, fascinated at the process, needing to go inside to a dinner, but unable to tear my ears from the radio. When the news came that Iowa, among the whitest of states, gave their voices - loudly and proudly - to Barack Obama, and gave him his first victory of the Primary Season, I put my head on the steering wheel and cried. Happy, hopeful, anything is now possible tears of joy!

Iowa opened the flood gates, and started the bandwagon. Songs were written, art was made, shirts were worn, and a strong coalition of hope and possibility was formed. It became more a movement than a campaign. EVERYONE felt the darkness of the past eight years, and we all shared the same desire to move in a positive direction. That is, everyone but the opposing factions, who did everything in their power to squash the momentum, to no lasting effect. Sometimes I think things had to get so bad in this country in order for us to wake up and finally come together to DO SOMETHING about it. It's very Star Wars, when you think about it.

It's been a long, LOOOOONG journey since then, full of emotional ups and downs, scandals and wretched tactics from Obama's opponents - but he never wavered in his grace, wisdom and calm. Because of that, neither did we.

The work intensified, making MORE phone calls, talking about it more in everyday life, writing about it constantly, traveling to former Red State Nevada (which WE WON!) to knock on doors, and making more phone calls. Honestly, the "Community Organizing" which was mocked by Republicans, is exactly what did them in. That, and a transcendent candidate named Barack Hussein Obama, whom we truly believed in.

Yesterday dawned (not that I slept) sunny, the most beautiful day possible, and I took that as a good omen, though the knot in my stomach told me not to trust it. I had a text message from a friend/neighbor before 7 a.m. that our polling place had a line of 250+ waiting to vote. That news prompted my first sob of the day ... surely all those people weren't waiting in lines like that to vote Republican again?! I turned on the morning news and saw that those lines were happening all across the country ... It was happening! People were using their voices!

But as a friend pointed out, "we've been bitch-slapped the past two elections", so I held down my growing excitement, terrified of being ruined again. In all frankness, I think I've been in somewhat of a depression ever since Kerry lost to Bush. Not that I held any of the same high hopes in that election, but just that anyone could POSSIBLY have voted in that other direction TWICE. I think the whole planet may have shared in that depression - unless they were profiting from the war and terrible economy in some way.

When it was my turn to get in line, my excitement grew. I couldn't stop talking to strangers in line about what a great day it was (my brother Paul said, "I think you might be electioneering"), and they all agreed. When it was time to punch the hole for Obama/Biden - I had more tears. When I walked out with my "I Voted" sticker on, the whole long line smiled. I allowed myself the tiniest glimmer of hope - again.

I ran from phone calls to computer screens to MSNBC and back around - all day. One pundit would boost you up, only to have another give you a gut punch. This went on all day long. I couldn't eat. I paced. My friend and fellow long-time Obama supporter, Jenny said, "Here, take a chill" - and handed me a glass of champagne to calm the nerves. (It didn't work, but it was delightful).

Finally, having passed up the big parties around town to focus (and rock back and forth) in relative calm, it was time to gather around the television and await the returns. I wondered if my drinking champagne was a premature curse. I hoped that my taking the garbage out that morning symbolically meant the Washington trash was about to get thrown out (everything had much deeper - and possibly sillier - meaning yesterday). Still ... I dared to hope.

It started to look good .. but then Chuck Todd said that it was the original projected map, and no surprises had happened yet, so people should "cool their heels, it could be a long night". UGH! You started to see people arriving in Chicago's Grant Park - nothing but smiling faces of all colors and ages - rushing to get a good spot. Obama would take one state, but then McCain would take another. Then they called Pennsylvania for Obama, and I choked up again - no McCain upset - hope! Then a bunch more, and then - Minnesota, my home state - WON! I danced and hugged and another cork popped. But nothing could be taken for granted until the last polls closed on the West Coast - where we were. Sitting on the very edge of my seat, I watched as the time clock clicked down the seconds to our 8 p.m. poll closing. I was aware of nothing else around me but that clock.

When it hit 8:00, I heard nothing. I just looked at the state percentages, saw California go for Obama, then it switched to say "United States" and the percentage, and then the word PRESIDENT under Obama's name. I literally fell to my knees, then leaped up into a World Series worthy huddle of victory, friendship, relief and pure, unadulterated JOY! Tears streamed down my cheeks and I cried like you did as a kid, shaking and quivering ... SCREAMING! WE DID IT! In lulls while we took breaths, you could hear the same happening in pockets all around outside. VICTORY! DING DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD!!! AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL! WOW!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!! AMAZING GRACE!!

We calmed down long enough to watch the incredible scene unfold in Chicago. A crazy wind whipped up suddenly outside (it was seriously crazy, making it very hard not to make "Winds Of Change" jokes, or think of the ghosts who we hoped would somehow be able to see this wondrous event) as we heard Obama give the victory speech that not only inspired us, but also called us to action. Because this is just the beginning, people. We have WORK to do. We have had great, great damage inflicted on us as a people, and as a nation, (and inflicted it upon many other people and nations, I'd regretfully add) and change is not going to happen overnight. We know this. We accept this. We SHALL overcome! So just for today, let's get back to the celebration!

We had sent out the word to all friends to meet in the parking lot of The Brig, a local bar, to join us on a victory bike ride. People we didn't even know were there waiting with our friends, as we rode up around the corner, screaming and ringing our bells. EVERY car that drove by was honking, with people hanging out the windows screaming. As our large group took over the street with our bikes, blue star balloons streaming behind us, EVERYONE we passed screamed along with us. I've never ever seen anything like it, and tears streamed down my cheeks to meet my gigantic smile. I hadn't felt that pride of country in a long time, maybe since I was a tiny kid at the Bicentennial ... or maybe the Miracle On Ice ... and so it made perfect sense that we celebrated like kids last night.


After that, it's all a blur of happy mayhem. But when I woke up today, it was not a dream, rather, it was the FULFILLMENT of a dream! The headlines shouted triumphantly, and photos of people celebrating around the world nearly brought me to my knees again. It made me feel almost exactly as profound as 9/11, only in the exact opposite way - ELATED, as opposed to devastated. The whole world rallied around us again ... this time in joyful celebration! I can barely see through my now-welling-again eyes to type further, as I've wanted so, so badly to feel this way again about my beloved country, and now I, WE, can.

I think today of Madelyn Dunham, Barack Obama's Grandmother, who died ONE day before her Grandson became President. I think of Obama's parents, who never lived to know of their son's transformation of a nation. I think of Martin Luther King, Jr, who died so that yesterday we DID judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. I think of Bob Marley, who sang "Get Up, Stand Up" ... which we DID yesterday, to join together and CREATE CHANGE and say NO MORE! But most importantly, I think of all of us. We who are still here, who created and saw this wonderful day happen in history, but who can now also be here to back it all up in the days and years ahead.

One day, one party, one man ... can do NOTHING to change the world beyond the initial celebration. We must now ALL come together to live up to our best ideals, and really, to save the world. Things would have been drastically, ruinously, different had things gone the other way last night ... and I think we all know that. No matter who you voted for, there is no way you can be against the outpouring of joy and unity that happened last night in The United States of America, and around the globe. This is our time to lead again, by GOOD example. To truly live UNITED, as one people, and one nation ... we cannot forget that THAT is why we were founded as a New World, not to be split down the middle by things that really don't matter so much in the end. Taxes, abortion, etc .. those things that divide us aren't the things that made us great. It was the idea of a true Democracy, and that all people are created equal. What made me cry and shout in triumph last night wasn't that my guy won ... it was that we as a people SHOWED that our Democracy DOES work, that we ARE all created equal, and that America really IS beautiful. That out of many, we are truly one.

Last spring I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the exact spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech, after a day spent at the Walter Reed War Veterans Hospital, and choked up to think of how far we had gone astray since Lincoln's day, and thought we had maybe failed for good. Next January, a million people will again fill that same space, and know that they helped make a national dream come true.

Let us continue that line of work, dream-making. Let's give all kids the dream of college. All families the dream of affordable/free health care. All workers the dream of jobs. All economies the dream of thriving. All eco-systems the dream of surviving. All nations the dream of peace.

Why not dream? Last night, we as a WORLD, learned that anything is possible.