One Small Step for Obama, one Giant Leap for Mankind

I fell hard for Barack Obama in 2007 when I heard him speak in Springfield announcing his intention to run for the presidency. He was understated, eloquence without bombast, confidence without arrogance. Obama always appeared certain of himself and his mission. The power and the grace of his oratory never came through in debate, after debate, after debate. But Obama’s confident smile held steady.

The fall of 2007 turned to the winter of 2008. A political earthquake struck Iowa. And from that moment the Obama wave started to grow, it took a hit in New Hampshire, but it slogged through Super Tuesday and came on strong through Virginia, Maryland, and a host of other states. Hillary pounded on Barack and shaped him into a battle ready combatant. When you have survived a beating from Bill and Hillary Clinton; John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Joe the Plumber, are not particularly intimidating.

For eight weeks before election day, I’d start each morning with a review of the polls. Obama and the Dow Jones average were going in two opposite directions. As the markets moved ever lower, Obama moved steadily upward. By the last week of October the Obama victory was clearly in view, still I held my breath.

As newspapers around the nation reported remarkable throngs of citizens showing up for early voting in state after state, everyone knew something big was happening.
In the closing weeks of the campaign Obama would appear at rallies with tens of thousands of people. From St. Louis, to Denver, from Orlando, to Columbus, it was clear that this election was destined to make history.

I waited until six o’clock on election night, which is nine on the East Coast, before I dared to turn on the television. Still I held my breath, would this really happen? Could this improbable event really be unfolding? Would all the waiting, the watching, the donating, and yes, the praying, would it all pay off?

And then it came like a primary night tidal wave: Shortly after six “Pennsylvania goes to Obama,” and then at seven, “Ohio goes to Obama,” finally waiting for the “Western Wall” to fall into place, at eight o’clock network anchors excitedly announced, “California, Oregon, Washington State, go to Barack Obama, who is now projected to be the 44th President of the United States.”

I started to breath again.

I watched the cheers and tears, the smiles and stares of stunned disbelief for two more hours. And of course, one more soul stirring speech from the new President Elect. A calm reasoned voice in a sea of hysteria. Just what I had come to expect.

But still a part of me, one week later, is numb. When Neil Armstrong jumped off the ladder of the lunar lander onto the surface of the moon, his words came through loud and clear, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” America and the world paused and thought, “WOW.”

Now we find ourselves in WOW mode again: waiting for January 20, 2009 when Barack Obama steps across the threshold of the White House and takes one more giant leap for mankind. It’s not because he is an African American, it’s because he doesn’t look anything like the 43 presidents who came before him. The talent pool for the Oval Office just expanded to include, women, Jews, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Indio Americans, and Muslims.

We’ve all seen great sadness sweep over this land and great joy as well. Happiness is better than bitterness; pride is better than shame. If America was ever truly going to be the land of unbounded promise, the opportunity to serve in our highest office had to be available to all people.

Change we must, and change we did. Regardless of political views we’re all that much better as a nation for having taken this leap forward.

—Martin Brown – Health Editor