Archive for Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama’s victory signals country’s growth since his birth

November 12, 2008

We’ve heard much in the last week about what an historic moment was the election of Barack Obama to president of the United States. As an illustration of just how historic it was, consider that Obama was born in August 1961. That was the summer of Freedom Rides, in which whites and African Americans rode buses together into the South to test a recent Supreme Court decision that segregation of public transportation was illegal.

As Obama was being born, the rides provoked a violent response from those determined to maintain segregation. In Obama’s first 10 years, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated, Black churches bombed in Birmingham, Ala., police dogs let loose on marchers in Selma, Ala., and three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi.

The movement did bring progress, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that declared discrimination based on race illegal and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But few in those days could have predicted that a baby born to a white mother and black father near the start of that turbulent decade would realize the civil rights movement’s goal that America would be true to its founding documents and that all its citizens would have the opportunity to go as far as their talent and abilities would take them.

On Nov. 4, about 59 million Americans voted against Barack Obama. Most found fault with his policies and questioned his experience. But there was among that total those who voted against him solely because of the color of his skin.

Those voters were the real losers in the election. They can hold to the bigotry and intolerance of 50, 100 to 200 years before. But the rest of the voters have signaled the country has moved on.

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