It was an unseasonably warm night in Chicago. On Tuesday, November 4, 2008, nearly a quarter of a million people -- young and old, men and women of almost every racial and ethnic background -- streamed into Grant Park. The crowd was peaceful and somewhat subdued, filled with a jittery anticipation about how the night would likely unfold. Shortly after 10 P.M.Central Standard Time, television networks announced that Barack Obama had been elected the forty-fourth President of the United States. For a few seconds, the crowd stood still, in a stunned silence. Then, the crowd let out a collective and euphoric scream. There was joy, relief, and disbelief. Tears flowed freely, strangers hugged for several minutes, others knelt and prayed. Senator John McCain’s concession speech put Obama’s election into its historic context by reminding Americans that just a century ago President Theodore Roosevelt had been vilified for inviting Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House. Obama’s victory speech took the high-spirited crowd even higher: “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.” I called my cousin, who was too filled with emotion and too mystified to complete her thought: “This country . . . This country . . . This country . . . ” she said quietly, as her voice trailed off.
If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and the national election, can we expect the same gathering of crowds and the same emotional outpouring? Would the historic election of the first woman President evoke a similar thrill and sense of wonderment at the leaps that this country is capable of making?