A Piece of History

Barack & Michelle Obama

I was five years old when the Berlin Wall fell. I have few memories of it happening but I do remember some of the scenes; the crowds flooding the checkpoints, the sections finally coming down. I’ve often wondered what it must have felt like at the time, to watch history unfold.

Now I think I know.

Seeing Barack Obama win yesterday is something I will always remember. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought Obama could be elected President of the United States, I would have said no. There were too many divisions; too many obstacles to overcome. And then it happened; Obama won.

I know the election of one man changes little; there is still racism and bigotry in the world and perhaps there always will be. But it’s a step forward and what it means for African Americans and minorities around the world is something words cannot truly describe… it’s the culmination of a dream and just like the Berlin Wall, it’s a moment that will live forever.

For Australia it brings the promise that perhaps things can change here as well. I have long hoped that one day we will have come far enough to have an Aboriginal Prime Minister, that immigrants and minorities will be more readily accepted and the divisions that caused the Cronulla Riots will be healed.

Today that hope doesn’t seem as far away.

I don’t know what kind of president Obama will be but I know this moment is one I will always remember; the scenes in Chicago, the tears at rallies and on the streets. It’s a piece of history. I feel privileged to have watched it unfold.

10 thoughts on “A Piece of History

  1. This is an historic event. I’d lost interest in the elections somewhat, but I think it is a wonderful thing to see how far the USA has come.

    I have no idea whether Mr. Obama will make a good president. I guess that remains to be seen. To tell the truth, I’ve never been all that impressed with either party. I’m glad he got elected, though. I feel it speaks volumes for the American people and their attitudes.

    Thank you for sharing this post; the importance of this event hadn’t quite sunk in for me, but now I feel truly moved.

  2. It’s been an incredible couple of days, hasn’t it, Bobby? It felt like the election had gone on forever but it all seems worth it now, when you see what it means to so many people.

    I’m not sure what kind of President Obama will be but I hope he will be someone who can bring both sides together; I think he’ll at least try as if you promise change and don’t deliver, the public won’t forgive you.

    But regardless of that, it’s just a wonderful moment; who would have thought that, forty years after Martin Luther King died, there would be an African American in the White House? I’ll remember these scenes and tears for the rest of my life.

    Thanks, MQ. It’s a day I know we’ll never forget and when you see how much it means to people, how far America has come, it creates hope for everyone… that’s when America is at her strongest. A wonderful moment.

  3. Well I am VERY certain that the newly elected president will do wonders for the minority of people in the USA, unfortunately he will not do much to help the country. I am glad he made history but how will that assist in running a nation with major issues? The left will scream for more entitlements to help those who enjoy living in stupor of dependency. The rest of us will survive as we look to other sources apart from the government to keep afloat. Our country was not founded upon being supported, but one with minimal government interference and the sweat of our brow. Our founding fathers came to escape interventions and now the very name of Christianity is despised as we embrace change.

  4. You make some interesting points. To be honest I didn’t mean this to seem pro-Obama if it came across that way, merely that I think this is an important moment regardless of your political persuasion or where you live in the world. Few countries can claim to have achieved what the United States has now and why I think it’s significant isn’t because Americans elected an African American or minority president, but because they elected a man who happens to be African American; all the polls show that race barely played a factor (rather it was the economy) and that’s an incredible achievement, particularly for a country as divided as it was forty years ago.

    As for what kind of president Obama will be, I don’t know either; I hope he is the kind of president who can bring people together as that would be good not just for America but the rest of the world. I suspect Obama will try to live up to his word about change as if he doesn’t his popularity will go down very quickly. As an Australian I don’t know enough about American politics to know what they might be but I assume most changes could be reversed by the next administration if they went too far. If anything it seems like this is a generational shift and we’re seeing the end of the Reagan Revolution, a cycle which will repeat itself again.

    As far as religion goes Obama is a Christian himself and I think his views on some issues represent a political divide, not a religious one. I’m not religious myself but I have immense respect for Christianity; it’s the fundamentalist fringe of any religion that makes people wary. Personally I don’t see why social change necessarily has to equal religious change, but that’s just me.

    I have doubts about Obama as well and I don’t mean to seem overly positive; he’s one of the least-experienced candidates to have run for the presidency and nobody knows exactly how he will govern or, from our perspective, what it means for Australia. But I think no matter what happens later, this is an immense moment in history and I’m the most hopeful I have been in a long time. Not just for America but for the example it sets for the whole world; this is when America is at her strongest, shining like a beacon for the world to see, and I’m very hopeful for what will happen from here.

  5. Without doubt, his election is one of those landmark events in history in which nobody will forget where they were or what they were doing. To be honest, I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. I’ve never been so ecstatic to be proven wrong!

    The blog looks great, btw.

  6. You know, I was just thinking that the other day, Ella. There are a few moments I’ve lived through that I’ll always remember where I was when they happened; September 11, Bali, the 2004 tsunami… this is one of the first in my lifetime that has had a truly positive impact and it’s a wonderful moment. Sometimes the world really can change overnight.

    And thanks! I wanted it to look more like a website and I’m very happy with the design now; self-hosting seems to suit me. 😉

  7. This is definitely historic, but I feel it is foolish to desire something just so it can be historic. Obama was not my choice for president, not because he was black or white, but because I firmly disagree with most of his policies. However I would wager many people DID vote for him because he is black and saw this as a monumental event. There are hundreds of black leaders and businessmen that would be better president’s than him, and likewise hundreds of whites, or men or women of any persuasion that are “better”. The main thrust I felt from Obama supporters was this sense of excitement about crossing this threshold. But I believe that is a bad way to vote.

    “I have long hoped that one day we will have come far enough to have an Aboriginal Prime Minister…”

    Would you hope for an Aboriginal prime minister over a “better” candidate just because it would be historic? What if there never was a better Aboriginal candidate? Would it be better to vote for one just to make it happen, and prove a point? Hopefully not.

    That said, regardless of the means of Obama attaining our presidency, the ends remain the same – historic like you said.

  8. I was just reading a story how the New York Times made $1.7 million selling newspapers of with Obama’s victory on the front page. It was truly a historic event. Obama’s inauguration will be even more memorable in my opinion.

    What is most striking is that Obama has been very alert and aggressive in putting together a team to tackle the tough problems this country and world faces. Obama has the makings to be the greatest President this country has ever known. And for the sake of all, I hope Obama rises to the moment and restores the American Pride that was lost under Bush.

  9. I understand the point you’re making, Mark, and I do agree, I have no doubt that some people voted for Obama purely to see an African American in the White House. But the problem with that argument is that it presumes that race was one of the main factors in the election for people and it wasn’t; the polls suggest that for 80% of people race played no factor in their vote at all, and of the remaining 20% of people the majority (55%) were driven toward Obama. I don’t think that constitutes a racially motivated election.

    Based on those figures it indicates that McCain simply didn’t connect on the issues; America elected a President who happens to be black, not an African American President. Whether Obama proves to be the right man for the job or not remains to be seen but so far he’s doing quite well. His cabinet choices have been to the center and have even been praised by some Republicans, which is a good sign; I am disappointed that Rick Warren will be giving the invocation, however. We won’t know how Obama will actually govern until he is President but overall I’m optimistic based on what we’ve seen so far.

    As for what I’d want to see in an Aboriginal candidate, I’d ask for what I think anyone would want to see; someone competent, a leader who could take Australia forward. I wouldn’t want anyone to vote for him/her just because he/she was of Aboriginal heritage – but then as I said, I don’t think that’s what happened with Obama either. I would hope by the time it did happen in Australia that it wouldn’t be a factor anyway and instead would represent a symbolic step forward. But realistically I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

    Either way it’s an historic moment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    $1.7 million in newspapers just for the NYT, SBC? I can well believe that; there was a frenzy to buy papers over here as well and we’re half the world away! Time Magazine just named Obama their Person of the Year as well. The whole election must have been a boon for the press.

    I’ve been impressed with the cabinet picks; they’ve seemed fairly moderate, although call me cynical but I was expecting Hillary Clinton’s nomination – it makes it difficult for her to challenge in 2012 if she has to publicly support Obama’s policies in the meantime. I think keeping Gates on is a very smart move and James Jones is an excellent choice as well.

    The main thing I wonder about with Obama is that he is basically untested; he ran on a platform of change and while he seems to be making many of the right decisions now, it won’t be until he’s actually been in the White House for a while that we get a sense for how his fiscal policy starts to shape the US economy and, through that, the global economy.

    As far as other issues go I think he’ll most likely govern from the center but the biggest test of that will come when the Supreme Court nominations come up. I think he has the potential to be a very good President but right now it’s much too soon to be making any predictions.

    I’ll say this, though, I certainly don’t envy him. With two wars, the global financial crisis, and tensions between India & Pakistan and Israel & Palestine, it’s some time to become President, isn’t it?

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