The people we have been waiting for

by Chris Honor&


As the evening of Super Tuesday waned and it became evident that Barack Obama would split the primary delegates with Hillary Clinton, Obama once again took the stage and stood behind the podium. His voice edged with exhaustion, he spoke eloquently about his hopes for his campaign and for our nation. It had been a bruising week, crisscrossing the country, a test of his commitment and his endurance.

At the conclusion of his speech, he delivered a memorable line. Speaking of what needs to be done, of the change that must take place if our nation is to restored, he said, "We ... we are the people we have been waiting for."

Indeed. There it was. Simple and elegant and so very much on point.

For all of us living through this moment, we should know that it is unprecedented, rare, one to be remembered and embraced. A convergence of history and candidates, when poetry and policy merge with new yet familiar harmonics.

Familiar because there were those all too brief years from 1960 to 1963 when JFK's presence captured our imagination and touched our souls. We were called to service, urged to ask not what our country could do for us but what we could do for our country. John Kennedy stood before us on a brittle and cold day in January, 1961, and spoke those words, and his words resonated with a generation of Americans. The Peace Corps was one manifestation.

Some five years later, his brother Robert would reach out to the least among us and his words would inspire, reminding us that great things were still possible, a war could be ended and poverty addressed. We could do this, despite our stunning losses of the previous months and years. Martin Luther King had been assassinated earlier that spring. It was a grievous loss as was the loss of John.

To those who were not there in 1968, it seems all but impossible to describe what those days in late May and early June felt like. But now, words are no longer necessary, for clearly the young have sensed something in Obama that is a thread to that time in the late 60s. Robert Kennedy was not just a candidate for the presidency, but represented a movement, a building wave of enthusiasm, of hope, and of optimism. Obama brings that same zeitgeist to his candidacy, that same surging belief that for all that has transpired these last seven years, for all the loss of precious lives and treasure, for all that could have been and wasn't, America can once again be transformed. Renewed.

Obama's candidacy transcends the man and the process and represents something far more than an election. And that is why, when the Clinton campaign began to play the cocaine card, the race card, the Jesse Jackson card, their intent being to abridge the man, the reaction was one of anger and disappointment. For the Clinton's effort was not to just bring down a candidate but to truncate and diminish hope. The reality is that whatever the outcome of this election, this moment, this luminous moment, is not theirs; it belongs to a new generation. That is a truth both Bill and Hillary have been slow to understand.

In that speech on Super Tuesday, Obama reeled off a litany of hope. And the words he spoke came from the heart, were incandescent, and not derived from some well-thumbed political play book. There's a huge difference, and it's something, for all of her talent, Hillary cannot seem to infuse into her comments.

Obama spoke about an America with a work force of green collar workers, committed to all best efforts to address global warming. It's time. He spoke of universal health care, and getting it done. He spoke of ending our long national nightmare called Iraq, and framed his commitment in such a way that it was clear that no matter what the Republicans say we are not raising the white flag of surrender, but our own flag which says we will not abandon you, but we will no longer sacrifice our young people or spend our tax dollars if you are unwilling to love your country, such as it is, more than your differences. Obama spoke of being united and not divided, not red states or blue, but the United States.

There's work to do, and the festering wounds of the last forty years &

framed by Vietnam, compounded by the culture wars, the moral majority, conservatives v. liberals, right to life/right to choose, gay/straight, and values voters &

can be left behind. To remake America &

to restore our national pride and international stature, to once again value our Constitution &

requires all of us, united in an effort that will define us for decades to come. We are free. We are a beacon. We are fair minded. America is a place like no other. Whatever our differences, we will love this country more than our narrow ideologies.

Yes, Obama's words resonated that late Tuesday evening, gripped the heart and stirred the soul. Think of it. We can once again step forward, boldly, with purpose. Self interest, back door lobbyists, earmarked sweetheart deals, a broken foreign policy, all of it will pass along with the acrimony bred of hardened, bunkered positions. Good governance is compromise, advise and consent, checks and balances. We can restore it all &

if America senses the moment, and responds, for it may not come our way again, for years, decades even. This is a moment, and we are, we could be, the people we have been waiting for.

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