Last night, I, too, was at the Obama Election Night Rally in Grant Park. I was one of tens of thousands who physically made it into the park. In fact, I managed to make it onto a tiny patch of grass forty or so feet in front of the podium. And, like all of you, I was one of the millions upon millions of souls fortunate enough to experience this profoundly important moment. I felt the thrill of the wins in Pennsylvania and Ohio and the joyful disbelief as Florida's dizzying margins held. I whooped and jumped up and down and waved one of those stiff, papery flags on a wooden stick that I'd plucked from a bunch that had been passed back through the crowd, white stars and red stripes spreading out between pink and brown hands held aloft. As returns rolled in, I kissed my husband, laughing into his mouth as he pulled me towards him, both of us giddy that such an honest, principled, brilliant, and worldly person was going to be the President and that we live in a country filled with so, so many like-minded people.
As Obama was officially declared the winner, I whooped and wept with sobbing strangers -- an older couple from Colorado, a teenage girl from Chicago and a bodyguard-looking guy with a shaved head trying to get closer to the stage for a press assignment but, realizing he'd never be able to advance in such a packed crowd, called in to his boss that he'd come as far as he could. At that, he yanked an earpiece out and used his phone instead to take pictures for himself, celebrating this night and all it meant with his sardined fellow-citizens.
As I think about last night, I think about those strangers whom I will never forget, no matter the randomness of our sharing this memorable experience. I also think about the strangers I met while canvassing in Wisconsin the past few days, the people who admitted that if not for this particular candidate, they most likely would have lived their whole lives without ever having voted in a presidential election. They talked about their plans for bringing kids and parents to the polls with them, how they were sharing this chance to vote for a black candidate with dead ancestors and future generations.
I also think about Barack Obama, about his moving speech, brilliant campaign and serene steadiness, his family and their joys and tragedies and his unique worthiness to try to lead the world in such complicated times. I think about the fact that he has inspired so many of us, the vast crowds made up of individuals with our own sets of concerns, morals and perspectives. Like the thousands of people who volunteered for him and donated to his campaign and the millions of us who voted for him, he moves me. And I promise right now, bleary-eyed and emotional as I admit that I am, I will continue to try and work as hard for him as I am convinced he will work for us.
As we left Grant Park last night and began the two mile hike back to our car, we passed old couples and young families and loads of college kids trying to agree on a bar. We passed Chicago policemen in riot gear on horseback, line-ups of them along Michigan Avenue, more a spectacle than anything since the crowd was so mellow and happy and un-riotous. We passed blessedly relaxed swat teams with heavy-looking rifles, us smiling at them and them smiling back, an enormous weight having been lifted from all of our shoulders.
We marched along, listening to the silent sound of perspectives shifting and barriers crashing.