Just a few times in my life Iíve been aware of history being made. Iíve lived through a lot of history in my nearly sixty years, but it isnít often that Iíve known, at the time it was happening, that the world was changing. I remember when I learned of the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. I watched the Apollo 11 crew land on the moon and the Twin Towers fall. And thereís one great moment I even participated in: the election of Barack Obama.
Today we celebrate the birthday of Dr. King and look forward to the inauguration tomorrow of the first black president in our history. The two events are not just divided by one day, but by the course of history over the last forty years, and the last 300 years. Some of the shadows that have haunted us, some of the dark corners where Dr. King tried to shine his light, are now, at this moment, a little less forbidding.
Itís a wonderful thing to live in a multiracial, multicultural society, with rich traditions that come from so many different sources. It makes us a better people. It feels right now as if weíre crossing a bridge into a world where more things possible than we could have dreamed when I was growing up, back in the sixties. (And we did some pretty elaborate dreaming back then.)
I never ever doubted that an African American could serve as president, but I couldnít have expected it to happen in my lifetime. People half my age might not see the magnitude of this moment in exactly the same way I do. In fact, I know they donít, because Iíve talked with them about it. They know what it means, but they feel it differently. They accept, in a way that I could have until it happened, that this country is at a place where the color of a personís skin is not a deciding factor in whether that person can be elected president.