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As I sit and reflect on recent events, I have made one major shift in perspective between today and only seven days past. Today, I know this country is made up of a different, more dynamic and engaged people than what I had previously imagined. This great community called the United States of America is a collection of individuals with radically divergent linguistic backgrounds, radically different religious beliefs, radically different political views. This community, which has been called a melting pot of humanity, has shifted the historical context through which we are viewed by everyone, most importantly ourselves.
We modern Americans have inherited a contradictory legacy stretching over 200 years. First, we have inherited a proud legacy of selfless service and sacrifice for others. We came together to defeat Nazi Germany and liberate Jewish captors, we rebuilt Japan from ashes after defeating her in a war, which she started. There is no doubt that we have done much good in the world. Secondly, and less proudly, we have inherited a legacy of cruelty, oppression and genocide, which our country perpetrated against Black Slaves kidnapped from Africa and against native peoples who lived here when European settlers arrived, among others.
From day one, the United States of America has struggled often strenuously with trying to live up to the principles of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. We often have fallen very short of those ideals, opting instead to tolerate slavery, racism, selfishness and greed, yet we have continued to struggle with ourselves and we have continued to look for an ever broader and more inclusive means of applying those sacred principles laid out in our founding documents. We Americans have struggled generation after generation to create a better world and often despite ourselves…despite the very worst that is in us, we have labored and triumphed in an ongoing effort to perfect our union.
Two days ago, on Nov. 4, when I returned home late from work, I knelt by the bed of my sleeping 3-year-old, Native American son. I fixed his blankets, kissed his cheek and I imagined the possibilities that would be available to him in life. I considered that his first memory of a United States President would be of Barack Obama, an African American. As the significance of that reality seeped into my being, I swelled with pride in my country, I felt personally uplifted, because despite years of cynicism, I could not deny that if my little dark-skinned, Native American son ever wants to, he can grow up and become President of the United States. The possibility of any American dream is truly open to him and to all Americans.
Today, a couple of days later, as I reflect on the world in which we live, I realize that this generation of children will grow up with a radically different sense of the United States and the position that all of her citizens occupy. This next generation will walk into the history books with a truly United States of America, composed of diverse peoples and cultures. This generation of children will have available to them opportunities that we were only able to imagine.
We must be clear, there is still much work to do. There are hearts to sway. There are lives to lift up. There are crises to handle and there are bigotries to overcome. However, on Nov. 4, 2008, we citizens of the United States came together and we took one bold and important step along the long and arduous path of securing America’s promise for ourselves, for our children and ultimately for anyone who will reach for it.
May God Bless the United States of America and may we forever strive to be deserving of our gifts.