I just watched President Elect Barack Obama’s remarks at the Lincoln Memorial. How I wish my son was here. Neal cared a lot about the country, and followed politics and policy closely. It was one of the many subjects that he would talk with me for hours about after the boys went to bed. Sometimes we agreed and sometimes we didn’t, but it didn’t matter. It bothered Neal that so many adults of his generation weren’t even registered to vote, and didn’t even care about watching the news. After all, how can a democracy work if no one participates?
The presidential elections and inaugurations that Neal was alive to witness were full of cynacism and apathy. Many people who voted felt that their choice was between the lesser of two evils instead of between the good and the better. This was different. Whatever your politics, this election was like a new awakening. I never had to stand in line to vote before. Young people came out in huge numbers. And the emotion generated around the world is remarkable. Democrat or Republican, Black or White, Male or Female, Gay or Straight, that is something that we can all be proud of. We showed the world our character, and for once it was polished and shiny.
Watching the people gathered on the Washington Mall was a wonder. People were there not to protest, but to celebrate. How wonderful it is to see hope and excitement and pride in country on the faces in the crowd. There is resolve there, too – resolve to pull together and fix things that have broken down. Resolve to put aside differences and start with a clean slate. That’s inspiring. I hope that it lasts for a while. We need it, and it’s been so hard to find sometimes in recent years.
Devon and Ian were multicultural children. The election of Obama shows in concrete form that every child has a chance to make of his or her life whatever he or she can. With will and ability there are no limits. It’s what we tell our children all of the time, even when we don’t completely believe it. Parents and grandparents can say those things with conviction now. The unreachable star is suddenly not so unreachable. I put that quote from “Man of La Mancha” on Neal’s headstone, you know – “To reach the unreachable star.” We believed that it was possible, and that striving to reach was just as important as getting there. I wish he was here to share in this moment of optimism.