On November 4, our citizens participated in the most amazing political event in U.S. history.
The remarkable intellect and the tenacious, flawless campaign of Barak Obama, a newcomer to national politics, overcame the lingering demons of racism, bigotry, self-righteousness, and lethargy in his attainment of America’s highest office.
As president-elect, he is now a steady, inspiring beacon of hope for a better tomorrow for the many millions of Americans who put him in office and the several billion people worldwide who hoped for his victory.
America, for the first time, has a president-elect who happens to be black. A factory worker in West Virginia summed Obama’s victory this way: "If he had been white, it would have been a landslide." Considering the odds, it was a landslide.
Uri Avnery, one of Israel’s greatest and most eloquent champions of human rights, captioned his election-eve commentary with two words: "Our Obama."The Economist magazine in London spread across its front cover a companion sentiment: "It’s time!"
For me, his victory brought the same pristine feeling of achievement that I experienced when my vote in Congress helped to enact the first civil rights legislation two score years ago. I know well the lingering challenges of race and religion that Obama had to overcome.
My 87 years began amid the ugly vestiges of slavery. As a youngster I was troubled when blacks attending a local movie theater were required sit in a corner of the balcony. Restaurants on Main Street and State Street were for whites only. Nationally, lynchings were still sporadic. I recall a published photo of one being carried out in Indiana. It showed a crowd of white adults and children dressed their Sunday best enjoying the barbaric spectacle. Years later, when I asked a black friend how he endured those shameful days, he said simply, "We coped."
If I may be permitted a bit of advice to our president-elect: In foreign policy the Palestinian challenge remains at the root of America’s difficulties. Barak Obama can be true to his campaign pledges by leading Israel to acknowledge a plain and urgent reality — that Israeli citizens can attain true security only if Palestinians attain the same thing in a truly independent state within the borders that existed before June 1967.
Meanwhile, let us rejoice. Even those who opposed Obama’s victory must be heartened and warmed by the audacious hope he has already engendered. All of us can walk taller from this day forward — as we accept him as "our Obama."
* First published by the Canadian Islamic Congress