This election has been one of those experiences that history may define as "once in a lifetime." It is not often that we get to utter those words. How does an event or occurrence meet this definition? Like the occurrence of a perfect storm, events come together in an historic time, place and importance -- and we are fortunate to be there at a moment in history that others will remember and reflect on for a long time to come. One of the observations that have been made by many voters in this election has been, "I didn't expect to see this in my lifetime."
They were speaking about an African American running for the office of President, and following the results today -- the first African American elected President in the United States of America. I grew up in the segregated South of the 20th century, and I am among those who dreamed, and could not foresee this outcome in my lifetime.
What we have witnessed is more than a successful campaign. We have been witness to the birth of a movement. We have reached a milestone in the history of Africans in America that has come along a path of chattel slavery, when we were considered property, to second-class citizenship, and now to full participation in this democracy. The symbolic importance of this achievement will have an impact on the psyche of African Americans that most of our White fellow citizens will never understand. Many have described the 400 years of slavery as a stain on the history of the USA. Only the descendants of slaves understand how deep that stain truly is.
I recently traveled to Africa and engaged in a discussion with South African brothers and sisters who were watching this election intently. I asked what this election meant to them. Their response was revealing. What they told me was the history of oppression in Africa, which gave birth to slavery, helps us to understand how deep the stain really is in the lives of Africans. The colonial invasion of sub- Saharan Africa has left an even deeper stain. Most of us view the African continent through the demarcations of colonialism. These artificially imposed boundaries set in place fractious divisions that have erupted in almost endless conflict -- even in the post-colonial era. What post-colonial Africa and post-Civil Rights America have taught us is that 500 years of oppression cannot be erased in a generation or two.
This election is a more visible punctuation in our progress than any other. It ranks along with Kwame Nkrumah leading the first African nation to declare independence after World War II. That event led to the movement of post-colonial liberation in sub-Saharan Africa. The troubles that followed are indicative of the legacy of colonialism -- oppression, corruption, and poverty. What Africans all over the Diaspora see is a landmark indicator that confirms that Africans can be the primary determinants of their destiny. If an African can lead the USA, then Africans all over the Diaspora can shed another layer of inferiority that is a legacy of colonialism and slavery.
The movement that we have been a part of launching is a movement with a global worldview that is inclusive of all people. Africans, and observers all over the world, see in an Obama presidency, a future that leverages the leadership of the USA from a perspective more empathetic to the condition of other nations. None of us can predict how this will play out. What we know, however, is that the world is more closely linked than ever before. No longer is what happens in the USA a local phenomenon. When we have a financial crisis, there is a downturn in China. When resources are diverted to bio-fuels in the USA, famine breaks out in Africa. When terrorism threatens freedom, it threatens everyone.
In the words of our new President,
"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America."
"And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world -- our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down -- we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security -- we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright -- tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope."
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