While yesterday's presidential election wasn't the squeaker some predicted, Americans clearly differ in their views regarding the direction our country should head. I realize not all readers of this blog will be pleased with President Obama's reelection, and that's okay. Regardless of one's views on the parties or the candidates, however, I think we can all be very pleased by the reality that prompts my reflection this morning:
Last night I led a bunch of (very squirrelly, excited-about-their-first-presidential-votes) students through a discussion of the political thought of three important African American leaders at the turn of the 20th century: Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. Each of these men grappled deeply with the question of how best to protect and develop the rights and aspirations of their people in a desperately oppressive environment.
Then, I came home (having let the squirrelly enthusiasts go forth and celebrate or mourn as the occasion required) and watched an African American president deliver his reelection speech. These United States have elected a black man to the presidency. Twice.
I suspect that even today, Washington, Du Bois and Garvey would find themselves with different political priorities. But boy, would they be proud... and amazed.
Romney's election would not have meant Americans were opposed to the reelection of an African American president -- not in most cases, although I suspect we can all point toward instances in which race played a role in voting decisions. In this election, of course, we faced the unusual -- and in itself, horizon-broadening -- situation of having a Mormon candidate representing the other party, and it's safe to say the odd individual refused to support Romney for those reasons, too.
That said, the very fact that a black presidential candidate was nominated, and did win, and now has been reelected, speaks volumes for the distance we have traveled.
And I think that's something we all can be proud of.