For those who are relieved this presidential election is over, I write this column.
President-elect Barack Obama was born the year John F. Kennedy gave his inaugural address. In Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope —Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, he quotes from Kennedy’s inaugural address: “To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
Regardless of how we as individuals voted, regardless of our political stance in this challenging time, it is certainly a relief this hard-fought election is behind us.
It goes without saying history has been made with the election of Obama, who jokingly refers to his own bi-racial pedigree as “mutt.” Raised mostly by his white grandparents, this is a man who has known the security of a poor but loving Christian home while grasping the challenges and realities of his color.
I was raised by a father who had witnessed first-hand the difficulties of racial tension while working in a tire plant as a young man. He saw inequities on both sides of this issue and chose to leave the high-paying job and the tensions that went with it to become a full-time farmer the year I was born.
He had been raised in a sheltered rural community, so had never witnessed such issues until he was a young adult. His only glimpse at prejudice had been comments shared by his grandfather against the Native Americans who had once walked the farm ground the family owned.
“There’s another one of those dang arrowheads,” his grandfather would say as he turned the soil. His young grandson would slip each one in his pocket while his grandfather looked the other way.
Dad shared his thoughts on segregation with his children as he raised us throughout the turbulent 1960s. He was stunned people of color were kept from certain meeting places, shuttled to the back of the bus, banned from using public drinking fountains. I am horrified when I realize this has been true during my own lifetime, just the blink of an eye in terms of our history.
Not too many years ago there was a lawsuit filed by black State Highway patrolmen against a chain restaurant, saying they were forced to wait endlessly for service. This was near the end of my father’s life, and I remember discussing it with him.
“There is just simply no excuse for such prejudice,” he said. “I thought we had come much further than this.”
There are still those who want to hold on tight to that type of treatment, seeing it as acceptable for whatever misguided reason. One man who came in to my workplace this week said there are a few days in his life that he considers the worst. He mentioned the day his mother died, the day his father died and this election day.
I had to wonder what he is so afraid of as I listened to him discussing his anger with my boss. This is a man I’ve known all my life, and I was stunned to hear such hatred and bigotry.
As a nation, we need a leader with intelligence, with a strong perception of how to proceed from here and a willingness to surround himself with individuals who bring various strengths to help in these enormously trying times.
Our economy is in a frightening mess, our reputation as a world leader has been battered and bruised, our leaders for decades have missed the boat on reversing the trend of gluttony.
Regardless of how we voted, I hope each of us can respect the presidency enough to refrain from low-minded thinking, to stand with our new leader instead of against him, to pray for the return of global respect and a healthy economy in the land that, from its inception, has offered liberty and justice for all.
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