"I was brought to read about and remember a time when the political life of the American republic seemed charged with possibility, nuance, complexity, electric contradiction and the dawning of a politics of difference, a new kind of democratic pluralism. The courageous people of the African-American civil rights movement desired and fought for freedom and justice with such ardor that those mighty abstractions, impossibly remote yet essential to life, became imminent, graspable, present in the world."
Above is a quote from Tony Kushner, writing about the political climate he remembers surrounding Kennedy and the civil rights movement of the early 1960's. In light of the election results last night, that same sense of hope and social revolution holds true through electing Barack Obama. This sense of promise and excitement doesn't stem completely from the nation's first black president, though that part of history can't be ignored.
Obama has often been compared to John F. Kennedy, champion of civil rights, and a keystone in enabling last night's results. In listening to the strength, determination and elegance of both men's speeches, that comparison is apt. The comparison between Obama and Kennedy goes deeper than charisma and eloquence. Both men had a sense of decency that seems rare in American politics, a genuine tolerance for everyone. They shared a belief in the American political process as an agent for change, and both men rallied a nation to activism.
Last night, Obama did more than graciously accept the daunting task of reviving this country. Last night's speech was a call to action: "So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other."
Watching the jubilant crowd in Grant Park, a few short miles away from where I live, I was moved. I believed in the power not only of our new president elect, but of that crowd, 100,000 strong. For today, at least, I believe that we can change this nation together.