In 2008, I was in Chicago's Grant Park on a strangely balmy November evening with my 5 month old son strapped to my chest and a circle of people hovering over us as I breastfed him. Their faces looked like a United Nations of the Windy City and they were all complete strangers to me. Flanked by a million people anxiously awaiting the results of the election flashing before us on the big screen, I felt an American unity that I'd never even conceptualized before.
When the Obama family walked on stage in their stunning red and black ensembles there was not a dry eye in downtown Chicago. I'd never doled out so many hugs or smiled so hard for a person I did not know. It was ethereal, walking down Michigan Ave in complete peace. That was the best way to describe the feeling I had the night we elected our first Black President. For that evening, it was as if America had found a way to forgive ourselves for our bloody and untenable history with race.
Fast forward to 2012 and it was as if this moment was a dream, a blip on the radar with camps from every community blasting the President. It was if the worst of America had come back with a vengeance, from the Obama effigies hanging at the gas station to the slave wench representations of our First Lady. I began to wonder if the peace I felt in 2008 would ever return. I began to wonder if the conspiracy theories were true, or if my peers would sit home, and if we as a country would disappoint the entire world by failing to re-elect who I feel will be the greatest President our country has ever seen. Not because we share the same skin color but because for the first time in our history, the whole of America is represented in its highest office - the single-parent households, the minorities, the ivy-leaguers, the rich, and the poor.
Last night I felt a huge sigh of relief in the realization that the America of November 2008 still existed despite the rhetoric and foul-play of this election but there were no tears. However, this morning as I sit at my desk and thought about my son and realized that the 2012 election was markedly the turning point in our history the tears began to flow.
To create an America that has no choice but to recognize the wants and needs of our diverse society is the greatest achievement we've made. To show that when those people are addressed and considered an important part of society, they will involve themselves in the political process will forever change the political discourse in our country. To know that from his first year in life, my son was born into a world where his possibilities and potential would only be determined by his hard work and that of our community is the best peace of mind I could ask for. Again, I am a proud American and honored to represent my country in this world.