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ADD BARACK OBAMA’S NAME TO THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE HIM

Frederick Douglas. John Brown. Abraham Lincoln. Harriet Tubman. Kate Brown. Lizzie Jennings. Mark Twain. Harriet Beecher Stowe. George Washington Carver. Booker T. Washington. Jack Johnson. Althea Gibson. Joe Louis. Jackie Robinson. Thurgood Marshall. Malcolm X. Medgar Evers. Martin Luther King. John F. Kennedy. Lyndon B. Johnson. Muhammed Ali. Adam Clayton Powell. Hank Aaron. Mohandes K. Gandhi. Nelson Mandela. Robert Kennedy. Marcus Garvey. Louis Armstrong. Sidney Poitier. Duke Ellington. Chuck Berry. Bill Cosby. Sammy Davis, Jr. Rosa Parks. Jesse Jackson. W.E.B. Du Bois. Langston Hughes. Oprah Winfrey. James Baldwin. Ruby Bridges. Dred Scott. Nat Turner. Jimi Hendrix. Pete Seeger. Homer Plessy. Mary McLeod Bethune. Ralph Abernathy. Roy Wilkins. Benjamin Hooks. Michael Schwerner. James Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Ella Fitzgerald. Harry Belafonte. Richard Pryor. Spike Lee. Nat King Cole. Colin Powell. Edward Brooke. Shirley Chisholm. Mahalia Jackson. Ruby Dee. Ossie Davis. Fats Waller. Fats Domino. Leontyne Price. Roy Campanella. Satchell Paige. Stevie Wonder. Dick Gregory. Sam Cooke. Mother Gaston. Jim Brown. James Brown. Andrew Young. Lena Horne.

That’s a partial list of names to which we now add that of Barack Obama, people who in one way or another made America’s journey more complete. They did their part either actively or by their mere insistent presence on the national or world stage to end the ridiculous and cruel treatment of African-American citizens in a nation whose very first statement was “all men are created equal.” Many of us thought we’d never live to see an African-American president, and that part of America’s journey would take several more generations. It took a remarkably focused and calm young man to change that. Obama will be America’s 44th president, the same number Hank Aaron wore on the back of his uniform when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. Today America grew up when it comes to race, and did so overwhelmingly. 

It was not a huge landslide, but a very decisive victory. Obama’s Republican opponent Senator John McCain gracefully conceded early in the evening in what may have been his finest speech, brilliantly encapsulating his opponent’s quest and its place in our history, and calling for his own supporters to join him in serving the man who will soon be our president. And Obama will need all the help he can get. After 8 years of the most incompetent, destructive and reckless administration in America’s history, there’s a lot of work to do to repair extensive damage to our economy, our civil liberties and our collective soul when it finally sinks in that we were the unprovoked aggressor against an innocent nation in the Iraq war. America just doesn’t do that sort of thing, and hopefully because of the work and influence of President Obama, it never will again.

There’s an economy to rescue, a Bill of Rights to be restored, a global reputation to be repaired, health care to be provided, a planet to unwarm and terrorists to be hunted down and slain. A tall order for any president, but this one’s lucky enough to have his own party in the majority in both the House and the Senate so he has at least two years to get his agenda passed into law. It’s a great window of opportunity. But those are tomorrow’s headaches. This is a day that will go down in history and we’re here living it, a day to celebrate and give thanks that our nation has grown before our eyes. A day this nation will mark forever and one none of us will ever forget. President Barack Obama. Has a nice ring to it, no?

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