President of the Day

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Yes We Can

I hate to be so predictable, but I simply have to write about the new President-elect of the United States of America. Barack Obama’s victory is truly awe-inspiring, even to a non-American like myself. I can’t imagine how good my American friends must feel right now, it must be wonderful to actually be proud of your country!

You simply cannot ignore how great a progression this is; for an African-American man to win the presidential election. Of course nothing is so romantically simple, Obama winning the election doesn’t suddenly make racism in America disappear, but it is a substantial and long-awaited victory for civil rights and for equality. His victory speech was deeply moving – take for example this excerpt:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “we shall overcome”. Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

The video of the entire speech can be viewed on the BBC website.

One Response to “President of the Day”

  1. I’m looking forward to finding out who’s tomorrow’s president of the day.

    (I thought *songs* were hard enough to find)

    It is a brilliant speech. And (as we have come to expect) he delivers it beautifully. Great oratory is an amazing – and incredibly rare – thing.

    Another surge of oh-my-sweet-Christ-I-want-to-be-a-speechwriter yearning hits me. Normally only West Wing reliably evokes that.

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