It was a beautiful day in Chicago. Sunny and warm, it was perfect for getting out the over 80% voter turnout. No excuses here--the weather was great--and with a favorite son on the ballot to boot! Yes, turnout was heavy and the people spoke; Obama has a mandate with 349 electoral votes.
Arriving downtown at about 5:30, the winds of change were already blowing. Crowds were gathering along Michigan Avenue. Some had tickets; others seemed content to just be nearby. We walked south, waiting for my son, his friend and my sister-in-law to meet up with us. People were friendly and smiling. The spirit was hopeful. I sensed no animosity or pent up emotion that might spill over into chaos.
We took our places in the venue. There was one row of people in front of us. The lined the fence that separated the stage from the people. An empty space of about 5 feet created a mote in which the reporters had room to take their pictures. Beyond that space stood the stage. The podium from which Obama would speak was dead center in front of me. I could not believe how close we stood, with Oprah and Jesse Jackson both just a feet to our right. Names and celebrity were not acknowledged--they were just familiar faces among the friendly crowd.
As the evening progressed and results trickled in, cameras continually snapped, the sounds of photographers both amateur and professional, and the flashes helped illuminate the scene. Photographers took snapshots of people; the people took pictures of the photographers. History needs to be recorded, after all.
Throughout the evening, cheers rang out with each projection that pushed Obama further ahead. There were many votes to count, and it sometimes seemed a long night. People grew tired of standing. There was nowhere to move about freely, offering relief to stressed out knees and backs. Still, the mood was hopeful and positive. People just knew: this was history, one of those unforgetable moments where each witness would remember where he or she was the moment the announcement was made.
Jubilant shouts rang out upon the announcement. People literally jumped for joy--hugging and kissing and dancing. Many tears were shed...Jesse Jackson had tears streaming down his cheeks. The raw emotion was palpable. And, as joyous as it was, a certain sense of solemnity also ran through the crowd. A reverence for the significance of this moment in America's continuing story. American flags, distributed the moment of the announcement, began waving proudly. "USA! USA!"
During the McCain concession speech, there was total silence. Respect was given to the man and all he had done to serve the country. There were no boos and hisses being voiced, but applause for his gracious comments and his attempt to rally all Americans around our nation's cause.
The invocation was prayed, allegiance pledged to the flag. By the end of the national anthem, all voices joined in to express love of country in song. And then, the moment. "The next First Family of the United States." The Obama family walked on the stage, somewhat shyly, subdued perhaps by weariness and the recent death of their matriarch. But smiling and hopeful nevertheless. Waving to the crowd, they smiled at each one of us individually, or so it seemed. Yes, this was our victory--we were all in this together. "Yes, we did!" the crowd continued to chant.
This truly was, and is, our time, our moment, our victory. Hope exists, not just for change, but for a better life for all Americans. A better time for both our nation and our world. May Americans unite with this new opportunity. May what has divided us be left behind so that, together, we can make a difference. If we believe, it can be done. We have shown this. May "yes we can" become "yes we will." Then we will once more be able to say, "Yes, we did!"