Last night when NBC announced that Obama had won the election, I found myself getting pretty choked up. In some ways, my reaction reflected my feelings about the man, and the way that he's gotten me to care about and respect the ideal of the Presidency in a way that I haven't since I was a small child. And that's no small thing--I, like most of the adults I know, have been very jaded about the entire political process for almost as long as I can remember. Still, I think the bigger part had to do with Jason, and what this election will mean to him.
I looked down at my son, asleep in his mother's arms, and realized that, as far as he will remember, a black man will always have been elected President of the United States. And it struck me how different a world he will live in than I have lived in, how different his views will be from mine because of the different basic assumptions of life he'll have. When I was small, I did believe that I could grow up to be anything, even President. But as I grew up, I came to see that in many ways and for many people, the promise of America is an empty promise, that there are limits to what we may accomplish that have nothing to do with the limits of our ability.
I thought to myself about the way that Jason will grow up thinking about his country and his world, and realized that he has more of a chance than I had to hold onto that optimism. And that's a truly beautiful thing. And, beyond optimism, he really is coming into a world that has more opportunity in it than the one I was born into.
Later, I watched John McCain's concession speech, and while I thought it was a moving and earnest speech, I did think he made one mistake. "This is an historic election," he said, "and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight." On the contrary, Senator--this election is one in which we can and should all take pride.