By showing us possibilities, Obama mobilized more than a nation

I have never been so interested in the results of an American election. I am thrilled that Americans voted for change, putting a black man in the White House, but I quietly wonder why anyone would want to take over the reins during one of the bleakest times in the country’s history.

Fortunately, the grey clouds looming on the horizon will clear, leaving Barack Obama time to shine once the dark part of his inheritance is dealt with.

On to the current cloud cover’s silver lining; when a dream became a reality in Nov. 2008. Obama campaigned on a vote for change, and he changed the vote. He changed the electorate. People who had never voted, or had given up voting because they thought their votes didn’t matter, voted. People went to the polls holding their heads high, feeling that they could have an impact on their community and country, and they were right.

Obama gave Americans a reason to vote and made us believe.

He led by example. He led a positive campaign and reaped positive results. He reminded us that we don’t have to lower ourselves to the way others treat us. He reminded us that it is not about what we are owed, it is about what we earn.

He reminded us of a positive path of love and brotherhood — a path that many had strayed too far from out of fear or propaganda. He reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves and the people around us, and that doing so doesn’t make us communists, it makes us human.

Obama showed us the impact one person can have, not only in his own life, but also on those around him. He highlighted the point in his acceptance speech, saying it is not about the gains we can make as individuals, but about the gains we can make as a community, and as a people.

He reminded us that it is not about us getting ahead as individuals; it is about us rising (or falling) together as a people.

Every time he spoke, I heard Obama appeal to our sense of possibility, and in doing so he mobilized more than a nation. When he was elected, I heard something more than the cheering that spontaneously erupted across the planet. It was subtle, but undeniable: I heard the shattering of a glass ceiling.

I heard a huge exhalation from all of us that had been holding our breath for so long. I heard winds of change. I heard a deep sigh of relief emanating from everyone that has aspired to greatness but had been held down or back. I heard mouths dropping and tears of vindication. I heard excuses flying out the window. I heard doors opening for our children. I heard mothers of every colour say to their sons: “stay in school, do your homework, study hard and you CAN accomplish anything.”

I heard people coming together. I heard smiles crack across the faces of everyone that has been underestimated. I heard smiles for a future of possibility, unity, opportunity, and hope.

We realize Obama is no messiah and we don’t want him to be one. We love him for his humanity and for acknowledging his limitations. He is polished, but not too polished. He doesn’t pretend to have all the answers and isn’t afraid to seek out experts around him for advice. He made us believe and hope, but at the same time he manages our expectations and humbly asks for patience. Wow.

For the next Canadian leadership convention, please find someone who is not only intelligent, capable, and a strong leader, but someone charismatic, interesting and human, someone you’d invite to dinner. This is not a Sydney Poitier reference, because for me the race (and gender) of the candidate is irrelevant. But if you wouldn’t invite a candidate to dinner, why would you invite them to potentially run our country?

(Barack, please consider this an open invitation for dinner at my house any day of the week — just give me a few minutes’ notice to chase the dust bunnies away first, please.)

We yearn for leadership and look to our elected officials for clarity of vision, and the ability to assess and manage difficult situations. We want to rightly give them our trust to represent us well. We want to feel safe and see results. We want to secure the future of our children. We want our leaders to keep their promises and meet our expectations.

Obama could exceed most peoples’ expectations by simply running the country the way he ran his campaign. Me, I don’t have specific expectations for him as a president, but I do have hope — a revitalized hope. He has already done a great thing. Change certainly has come.

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