Last night I saw the America often expressed in its ideals, but too little seen in its landscape. First, there was the results of a campaign season that was itself historic. A black man has been elected to the highest office of the land, an act that goes along way toward moving America beyond the rippling consequences of slavery and racism.
Along with this, the losing candidate, John McCain, gave an absolutely stellar concession speech, a speech full of grace and humility, a speech that called Americans to move beyond the tribal politics of division and toward a spirit of unity and peace. Honestly, if this was the McCain on the campaign trail, I would have been drawn to him, but at least this is the McCain that will continue to serve his country as one of our most outstanding senators.
Finally, I saw America become all the more the land of opportunity when I looked at the hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered in Grant park to celebrate the victory of Barak Obama. As I looked at this crowd, particularly at the faces of African Americans, it was not hard to see how profoundly significant this moment was in our nation’s history. This really struck me when I saw tears streaming down the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s face, a man who marched with Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement. And then, I felt deeply moved as I saw Obama on stage, accepting his place in history, and I recalled the words of Dr. Martin Luther King:
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Like the tragedy of Moses, it is, of course, sad that MLK did not enter the promised land, but last night, though we did not quite enter that land, it seems pretty clear that the racist walls of Jericho are tumbling down. We are and will likely continue to be an imperfect nation, but we can proudly rejoice that we are closer to embodying our founding ideals that all men are created equal.