Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

It's still pretty amazing. From out out of obscurity, a dark horse candidate rose to become the most powerful man in the world. A lawyer who came from a humble background built his campaign on bridging divides and challenging Americans to dig deep and think about the promise of the future. A nation sharply polarized on key issues--racial equality, rights, taxation, education. He had incredibly well-written speeches that could turn a crowd silent.

You might think I was talking about the 2008 election. But I could just as easily have been talking about the election of 1860 that put Abraham Lincoln into office.

A backwoods boy who taught himself law, Lincoln struggled through failures and backbiting in his own party to become one of the most influential and greatest presidents in our history. Might we see the same from Barack Obama, whose dad left when he was two and was raised by his mother and grandmother?

As I said in a post yesterday, I've heard several historians talk about shifts that happen over time in party issues. They start off very polarized, work their way towards their middle, and gradually, switch sides. And on other issues, they start off polarized, and one party moves closer to the other party, so that there isn't really any distinction between them. "Climate change" is a good example of this phenomenon. 15 years ago, you'd never hear a Republican say anything about the environment, except that there were some tree-huggers getting in the way of business. Now, it seems like they're at least conscious of the issue. I expect that by the next election cycle, Democrats and Republicans will be trying to out-green each other.

Something that immediately impressed me was the language that Obama uses to talk about the country. He doesn't talk about "us and them," but just "us." Leaders give us a vision. Good leaders instill the vision in us. Great leaders inspire us to accomplish the vision.

I was working last night while watching his speech. At one point, I had to actually typing and pay attention:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

A tear trickled down my face. If you are not moved by the magnitude of that thought, you might want to make sure you are alive.

I was reading the Facebook comments of a lot of my friends last night and this morning. People expressing disgust and fear, calling us foolish for believing a smooth talker, buying into this liberal idealism.

To those people, I ask:

What if it's not as bad as you think?
What if Obama is this generation's Abraham Lincoln?
What if everything you thought was wrong?
Are you willing to let down your wall and listen?

God gave us one mouth and two ears; besides being more aesthetically pleasing, I think there's something implied there: listen twice as much as you speak.

Not to get all Biblical on you, but James says:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Give the man a chance. He has earned it. Whether you voted for him or not, he is your president. Lest you forget, the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.

Deal accordingly.

Maybe that's what we need--a little idealism. A little optimism that we can make a difference. That if we work together, we can build something great.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Yes we can.


  1. wow.

    did you just read my mind and put on a blog? creepy.

    that speech is amazing. also, i love the comparison between lincoln and obama.

    i'm trying to be bigger people than some on facebook by not throwing things at them, but i completely agree. if mccain had won, they'd be celebrating and rubbing others faces in it. i wish this country could put aside its differences and anger and decide to work together and create something we could all be proud of.

    i hope obama can do great things, which i would hope of any president. i'm ready for a positive spin on this country, on this generation and on the individuals who want to work together for a great nation.


  2. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Aaron! What a great post. I too just got done reading the Facebook comments, and your post echoed my own thoughts to at T!

    How important for us to trust that God is bigger than Democrat or Republican. How important to know He can use ANYONE, and it might not be who we think.

    I don't know what else to say other than I'm thankful for your post! Neat that you have a blog...I've been blogging too :). We miss you guys...we'll have to get together soon!

  3. Aaron- very well said. Both my wife and I read your blog yesterday and appreciated your account of how you came to vote for Obama. We both voted for Obama as well. It was our first time voting for a Democratic Party candidate. We did so with very careful consideration of both candidates and hundreds of hours of research.

    What has been disappointing to me, is to watch and hear the opinions and reactions of many fellow Christian friends and family members. I am ashamed at how so many Christians have spoken against Obama and his supporters without taking time to learn the facts for themselves. I think a debate regarding issues is not only healthy, but necessary to the democratic process. Unfortunately, many of these individuals are not interested in talking about issues but rather spend time personally attacking Obama and any Christian that would dare support him.

    I honor and respect McCain for his support and service to this country. While a great American, I don't believe he would have been the best President. I am shocked to hear the hatred, bigotry, and fear from so much of the Christian community toward Obama and his supporters.

    The older I get, the more I am starting to understand why Jesus shunned the company of the religious people of his day and reached out to those who were in real need. The Bible makes it clear that we should pray for our leaders and even pray for those who persecute us (thank God we do not have that kind of leadership in this country). Instead of sowing seeds of hate, fear, and prejudice, we as Christians should be quick to rally around our new President and pray for him (not against him).

    It has been very lonely being a Christian that supported (and still supports) Obama. We have been called many things as a result. In the end, it has made us stronger and even more confident that this was the right decision. Thanks for your blog and articulating many of the thoughts and conversations my wife and I have been having.

    Yes we can!!

  4. I'm so glad my wife and I aren't the only ones who feel stuck in this no-man's land.