Surely by now you've heard that Barack Obama was in town Sunday night.
I had the honor and privilege of being there. It was my first time hearing him speak live. Funny enough, he barely had a voice left. He'd spoken earlier that day in Gary, Indiana, and he obviously has been working hard towards today: The 2018 Midterm Elections.
What can you say about hearing Barack Obama speak live? The man is a masterful public speaker. He has a wit and style that I can only dream to possess one day...and he has panache. His speech was a little under an hour, and the crowd hung on his every word.
I'm not ashamed to admit that his speech made me teary eyed at times. Coincidentally, this speech was done 10 years to the day that President Obama gave his historic victory speech in Grant Park.
Now I'm a historian by education (shout out to Saint Xavier University!!!), and I feel as a historian, despite my generally crummy memory, I have a slightly better grasp on history than many.
I remember that on December 4, 2008 I was sitting in the USO room on Forward Operating Base Rushmore, in Paktika Province Afghanistan. I remember trying my best to hold in my tears in front of my fellow soldiers. I remember that on that night, we as Americans came to the realization that in this country, in America, anything is possible.
We saw a young Illinois Senator, make a seemingly meteoric rise to national prominence following an amazing Democratic National Convention speech in 2004, and 4 years later was elected President of the United States of America. That young Illinois Senator also happened to be black.
Anything is possible in this country. As Barack said in his speech on Sunday, "When the cynics said we couldn't, we said, Yes We Can! And later on, we said Yes We Did!" As we move through today, we have to remember this simple fact, that anything is possible.
President Obama said lots of amazing things during his speech, but one thing that I wholeheartedly agree with, that this
"In 2 days, you get to vote in what might be the most important election of our lifetimes, maybe more important than 2008. Because, America is at a crossroads right now. There is a contest of ideas going on right now. About who we are, and what kind of country we are going to be. Healthcare for millions is on the ballot. A fair shake for working families is on the ballot, and most importantly, the character of our nation is on the ballot."
And he went on to say that we've been at crossroads like this before, and he is absolutely right. There have always been opposing ideas in our country. We often forget that progress in this country has never been a straight line.
In retrospect, it feels easy to think that blacks were given the right to vote, and women were given the right to vote, and it was all pretty and neat. However, anyone who knows a little history knows that isn't the case. When blacks were allowed to vote, legally, laws were enacted to keep them from achieving this new right; poll taxes and literacy tests. The same can be said for women's rights, gay rights, and so on, and so on.
Nothing about progress in our country has been neat and easy. There has always been a struggle of ideas, and many times we have found ourselves at crossroads, battling for the soul of our nation, and sometimes literally fighting for our lives.
We are living in new times. Because of the newness of this era; social media, smart phones, a 24/7 news cycle and constant connectivity to the world at large, it all feels immense...immensely dark, immensely overbearing, immensely hopeless.
I'm sure our forefathers felt the same way many times. However, I firmly believe that when determined people band together, to fight for what's right for the many, not simply for the few, that fate will meet them, and justice will prevail.
Yes, that sounds like high ideals...but I do believe it. That is why, I believe, that Barack won. And yes, perhaps we got lazy. Perhaps we didn't take the threat that was a Donald Trump presidency seriously. And we have discovered what happens when we fall asleep at the wheel. When we let lies run rampant and uncontested, when we let men who champion more rights for the few and powerful prevail. This is where we find ourselves, with a President who will cut taxes for the rich, and then try to pay for them by cutting services for the poor.
But today, we stand with the opportunity to send a wake up call directly to the Republican party, that their brand of politics does not represent the spirit of who we are as Americans, and that we want leaders who will fight for the many.
Today, we have the opportunity to say that we will not stand for racial identity politics or racism in any form...that brand of politics is no longer acceptable in our society. We have the opportunity to say that we care for more than ourselves, and that we will not encourage soldiers to open fire on refugees looking for safety...looking for help...looking for a brighter future.
Today, we have the opportunity to say that we can have equity in society, we can rise above misogynism, xenophobia, belittling and bullying, and we will not stand for giving money to the rich elite while breaking the backs of the working class.
It is no secret that I am no fan of the Republican party. I think they've allowed themselves to be led down a dark path that will ultimately find itself on the wrong side of history. I feel that they allowed themselves to be bamboozled by fear and vitriol. They've allowed themselves to be lied to, and conned.
I encourage my Republican brothers and sisters to get to the polls though. I ask them to think about what direction they ultimately want to see this country go towards, and if they really feel that Donald Trump is the personality they want to see this country molded after. I can only hope that they could look beyond partisan politics to make a good choice for our state, and our country, and for our children.
I truly believe that we can hold ourselves to a higher standard. Illinois has an amazing Democratic party ticket going into these midterm elections, and I encourage you all to give them your vote.
As for me...I was an early voter. Tonight, right after work, I am heading to Danville, IL. My friend Mary Catherine Roberson is poised to become the first black county clerk of Vermillion County. We met through work, and I immediately found her to be an amazing an inspiring young woman. When she mentioned to me that she was running for office, I said "I'd love to help with your campaign." Unfortunately due to distance, I only had the opportunity to go canvassing one weekend for her campaign. We knocked on 48 doors. I did promise her that I would come down on election night to celebrate with her, and tomorrow I will be keeping that promise.
These are amazingly exciting times.
Don't be mad. Vote!
Don't be sad. Vote!
Don't get weirded out! Vote!
And if you've complained about a Trump presidency, vote!
Today is the day we right the course that we are on. Your vote could save a life, and it could set us on a better path for all.
I'll see you on the other side of the returns.
#Vote #GOTV #ChicagoStandUp
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