Wednesday, November 5, 2008

OTR: The Whole World is Watching

40 years ago, as a six year old, I watched television broadcasts that showed a riot on Chicago's streets, not far from where President-elect Obama spoke this evening. The young people fighting in the streets chanted, "The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!" That came at the culmination of what was, perhaps, one of the worst years in American history. My young mind could not comprehend much of what was happening that year. Assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, riots across the country, antiwar protests. My parents steered me away from much of that history. But we had the TV on that night as protesters and police fought on the streets of Chicago -- on Balbo, on Michigan Ave. and into Grant Park. As I watched the news coverage this evening, I kept thinking about that night in 1968. Live television brought those events into so many homes in America and around the world. The whole world could experience that event of violence in real time. Part of me worried about this night's event on those same streets. Part of me considered the magnitude of the history unfolding this evening. It was wonder, and hope, and fear.

Tonight, I watched an extraordinary event, perhaps nearly unthinkable in 1968. A crowd of hundreds of thousands gathered again in Chicago. The crossed Michigan Ave. and walked down Balbo. They entered Grant Park. They celebrated the election of a new President. They celebrated the peaceful transition of power in the country. They celebrated change ordained by the people, through the power of the ballot.

That's what I take away tonight, with tears in my eyes. I can't fully explain the emotion. Perhaps it is the power of the man's oration. Perhaps it is the emotion of so many people witnessing what they never thought possible.

Pictures that I take away tonight... the full and honest emotion on the face of Jesse Jackson. I know he was thinking about an April day 40 years ago and the message of hope that seemed to be extinguished that awful day... the determination and gravity in the face and voice of the President-elect, perhaps fully understanding that sometimes you do have to be careful about what you wish for... and only now realizing that the real task of governing lies ahead, beyond the rhetoric and the conflict of the campaign.

I wish President-elect Obama only the best. I hope that he can push forward his vision for this country and that he can heal our wounds and bring us together as a truly United States. The task is monumental. And I am certain that he was hearing the echoes of 40 years ago -- the cries of, "The whole world is watching!" They are. We are. And he is the focal point. God speed, Mr. President-elect.