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Pauline Lerner

The Promise Fulfilled

November 8, 2008 at 10:06 PM

A few months ago, a neighbor asked me about my views on the upcoming Presidential election. I told him that I just could not believe that a black man could be elected President of this country.

I'm just old enough to have participated, in a small way, in the Civil Rights movement. When I was 15, my father took me to the National Mall for a big civil rights rally, and I heard Martin Luther King give his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Its effects on me were profound and lasting.


I got very excited a few years ago when a black man was elected Governor of Virginia. (Incidentally, I'm white and I don't live in Virginia.) Years ago, many counties in Virginia closed their public schools rather than comply with the Supreme Court's decision on school desegregation. When the people of Virginia elected a black man as Governor, I was astonished and thrilled.

This year, as the Presidential election drew near, news reporters and poll casters said that Obama had enough votes to win the election. As Nov. 4, voting day, approached, their predictions got stronger and stronger. Finally, I had to believe them. On election day, I voted in the morning and watched the results on TV at night. I enjoyed seeing the large crowds celebrating at Times Square in New York and Hyde Park in Chicago even before a winner could be declared. I focused on a little blue box on the TV screen showing how many votes Obama had in the Electoral College. He needed 270 to win. When he passed the mark, I jumped up and down, clapped, and shouted for joy. I had no one with me to join in the celebration, and people were not dancing in the streets outside of my home, so I made a long distance call to a friend who is very pro-Democratic and pro-Obama, and we cheered and applauded together.

They said it couldn't be done. I said it couldn't be done. But the American people had elected a black man as President. Aside from his race, I thought he was the best qualified candidate in the election.

The election is only the beginning. Obama will have his hands full of crises, in part due to eight years of power of the Bush administration. However, I'm optimistic. Changes really do happen.

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