Dear President-elect Obama:
This afternoon I was sitting at a table outside of my favorite coffee shop, talking to a friend on my cell phone, when I noticed that the local merchants had written on the sidewalk with pastel chalk. The giant letters proclaimed “Vote Obama,” and “Obama is in the house.” Chills went down my spine. Something thrilling was in the air. I laughed delightedly and started to repeat the messages to my friend. Just then, an African-American family walked up to the entrance of the shop and overheard my conversation. I looked at them and they looked at me. Not a word was exchanged, yet I felt a kinship such as I have never before experienced.
Throughout my life I have fought passionately against discrimination and injustice. I have never, ever – not once – judged a person by the color of their skin. But despite of my unshakable belief in the goodness of all people regardless of race, creed, or religion, I have always felt a slight discomfort around African-Americans. I can only describe it as a guilt or shame, as if I was somehow personally responsible for the discrimination and abuses they have suffered. Whenever I had any interaction with African-Americans I found myself trying very hard to treat them especially well; perhaps trying to make up for things they have experienced that I cannot even begin to understand. I am not proud of this but I must admit to its truth.
However this afternoon, the moment I looked at this family, I realized that something had shifted in a very significant way. You see, I have known for more than a year that you would win this election. And of course, by now this African-American family knew you were going to win. I was so proud of you. So were they. It was as if, in that instant, we shared the precious and irrefutable knowledge that we are equals. They were without doubt and fear and I was without guilt and shame.
I recognized the feeling. It was healing. You have made me believe that we can heal, that we will again be a nation of greatness. I believe that we are not a collection of red states and blue states; we are the United States of America. I believe that we are not a collection of black people and white people and brown people and yellow people. We are “one human family.” And I realize I will never again need to feel guilty with African-Americans. You have released me from that bondage.
As I sit here shedding tears of joy and listening to you address hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago, I feel something else that I haven’t felt for a very long time – love for and pride in my country. Thank you, Barack Obama. Bless you. And God Bless the USA.