The day after the election, I was outside in the unusually mild weather, playing with my kids on the school's jungle gym. My youngest, having tried his hardest to traverse a particularly difficult part of the course with particularly short legs, said to me, "Help me! I can't do it!" I've read all the books and watched "Supernanny" marathons, so I used my child psychologist-approved, well-practiced, correct parental response and told him, "Yes you can, you can do anything if you try."
Almost immediately, it hit me. He really can. Who he is, where he comes from, who his parents are... none of that matters if he wants to achieve something and is willing to work hard to get there. If a mixed-race guy with a non WASP-y name, who grew up in a low-income, single parent house, can not only put himself through what is generally assumed to be one of the finer (and pricier) universities in the country and, eventually, become president, there's now no reason for any kid, or their parents, to assume that some goals are unattainable because of difficult circumstances or because of what they are. Now, not even the kids of so-called minorities living below the poverty line can say "I can't do it", because there's a guy whose history proves them wrong. The guy who is, tonight, in control of what is arguably the most powerful office in the world, came from nothing, had nothing, worked hard and made history. What happened today immediately nullifies millions of "I can't" arguments in one fell swoop.
I wouldn't be the first person to point out that not so long ago, Obama could have been another man's property. Nor would I be the first to point out that there are some states in this country whose laws would have deemed his parents' mixed-race marriage as illegal, but despite those statements frequency in articles and profiles since Obama's win, it's hard not to be humbled by the fact that they're genuinely true. Really, really think about what an astonishing moment in this country's history we all witnessed today, and how totally out of the realms of possibility it seemed. NBC's Keith Olbermann made an astute point on election night; politically, Obama's election was "man on the moon". A feat that not so long ago seemed so ridiculously out of reach, so astonishingly unattainable, so unthinkable... has actually happened. Hell, even as recently as two years ago if someone were to tell me that not only would an African-American take the oath of office within my lifetime, but that someone with the name "Hussein" would be doing anything other than cleaning out coffee cups in the White House, I would have laughed right in their stupid face.
So, as I bask in a rare moment of misty-eyed reflection and try to wrap my head around this historic turning of a page, my hope for the next four years is that what I felt on that November afternoon never leaves me, that Obama's actions as president won't cause cynicism to erode that feeling of "yes we can" when my kids think there's something they can't do.
Gene Wilder: American Comic Acting Genius
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