Overshadowed, occasionally, by all the talk of voter lines, machine malfunctions, election projections and electorate anxiety is the truly historic nature of what is taking place on this Tuesday, November 4. An African-American man has guided his way to the cusp of the presidency. The deal won't be closed for a few more hours. It may not happen at all. But the emotional threads have already begun to affect many voters. A slew of readers offered moving testimonials of the brief time they spent today casting a vote for something historical. It's worth sharing their words.
Steven, a 44 year old white male living in Orange County, Florida:
I hail from the great state of Mississippi -- however, I was raised by black folks in my earliest years... My family and background give impetus to why I am a very strong supporter of what Barack Obama's campaign represents. One of my first memories was watching the funeral of MLK, Jr. with my (de facto) African American mother. My people, James and Christine, come from the red-clay hills of Georgia. They both disciplined me, made me eat gizzards, and tried to get me on the righteous track very early in my life. Both are retired, getting on in their years, and they have imbued me with very strong ideals about what it is to be a patriot and a citizen of this country -- as well as what it means to be an honorable human being.
Tonight, when I call them at about 9:00pm, will be one of the proudest moments of our lives.
Jim from Montgomery, Alabama:
I'm a 59-year old white guy who votes in Montgomery AL at a "predominantly black" voting place. Both campaigns regarded Alabama as a state so far gone for McCain that there was no point spending money here. Far as I can tell, there has been no visible get-out-the-vote campaign here for anyone, though there was reportedly some uptick in registration, according to this morning's Montgomery Advertiser (which endorsed Obama).
My voting place (Hamner Hall Fire Station) opened at 8 AM. I arrived about 8:15 and walked right through. No line at all. Marked my ballot by hand and fed it to the machine, all in 5 minutes, most of which was spent marking the two-sided ballot (on the back were some constitutional amendments, of state and local import.)
When I think about it there was little point in casting my vote (for Obama) here; there's no realistic hope of overtaking the McCain flood or grabbing any electoral votes for O. But I'm happy I did it.
I've lived here my whole life. I remember my Dad explaining the Montgomery Bus Boycott to me when I was six years old, while it was going on all around us. The Freedom Riders took their licks at the Greyhound Bus Station downtown here when I was around 12 years old, and the Selma-to-Montgomery march ended on Monroe Street here when I was 15. My daughters 13 and 15 like Obama, but I wonder if there is any way they can ever understand what happened back then and what is happening here today. If not, maybe in a way that's a good thing. Maybe it's even the point.
You could easily walk from Hamner Hall to the site of the old Greyhound bus station, and with a little more effort to the capitol steps where Jefferson Davis and George Wallace were inaugurated -- and where Dr. King gave his speech in 1965. Likewise to the site on Montgomery Street where Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, number 2857, in 1955.
It's a pretty amazing place. And time.
Tanya from Parsippany, New Jersey
I just voted this morning. I must tell you that the emotion caught me off guard. My polling place was not overly crowded, but more crowded than on non-presidential years. When the curtain closed, I paused and had to catch my breath from the excitement. After I pushed all my requisite buttons, I paused again to triple check I'd hit everything correctly, and that's when it hit me. I was born 23 days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and 40 years later there I stood voting for Senator Obama to be the next President of the United States of America. How's that for CHANGE? How's that for the ability of this country to survive its failures and move through them to reach a point where this is possible? So, in all that, I started to cry, for the pride and joy I felt at that moment and the wish that so many others who've moved on from this world could have been here to witness it and share the same amazement. What a great day to be an American, even with our antiquated voting system, even with the challenges we face as a nation today and even with the cultural walls we've yet to climb.