First off, I was honestly impressed with John McCain’s concession speech last night. If the man who gave that speech had been the man running for President, this election would have been a lot closer. The only point I have to contend with is his praise of Palin’, which is a perfunctory nicety, but shouldn’t she get back to Alaska to keep an eye on Russia now?
Obama’s speech will be heard around the world. But more importantly, it will be felt. The entire Nordeast bar I was in sat silent as he spoke. It will become a staple among high school speech students for decades to come for sure. But the physical impact those words had was immediate. I liked his nod our country’s great history even as he stood making it. But it was his recognition of the challenges ahead that I took to heart. Despite his oratory skills, this wasn’t a fantasy world he laid out, we need to get to work. All of us. Remove the demographics and pigeon-holes that we’ve been shoved in for the past two years. All of us.
For those of us, who aren’t in Congress or have massive amounts of wealth, what can we do? How do we turn those words into action? To be blunt, listening to Obama last night made me want to be a better person. There are traits in our new President I want to emulate, that I want to teach to my nephews: intelligence, inclusiveness, reasoning, unflappability, positivity, in allowing your roots to let you become one of the branches. It can come out in little ways. Use your turn signal. Look a stranger in the eye and smile. Don’t see a businessman, a black person, a wheelchair, a bum, see an American. You share that in common. Realize that everything isn’t a contest. Learn about someplace where you don’t live. Give up your seat to an older person. These sound simplistic and silly compared to the issues we face, but try them, they’re free. They won’t add to the national debt. They’re totally non-partisan. And when you multiply them by millions, it suddenly becomes an everyday reality. We begin to see what is good about this country.
And it generates hope. Hope that draws possibility within reach. Hope that will be turned into action and solutions. We’re America. We’re better than what we’ve shown each other and the world the last eight years. We’ve grown fat, lazy, apathetic, and whiny. No longer can we be number one by default. We have to earn it. Just like many generations in the past have.
Don’t let the echo of those words fade. Let them reverberate in your own lives years from now. Carry an ember of that fire you felt to warm your heart when things grow cold.
Yes, we can. But will we? That’s up to all of us. And I, for one, am ready to get to work.
PS – Good to be back.