Friday, November 07, 2008

A New Day

This Tuesday, I spent the evening watching history with thousands of you at the Midland Theater downtown. I was struck not only by the joy of the crowd, but by the New Year's Eve-like atmosphere on the street. Cars honked, people yelled and high-fived total strangers.

Tuesday was a night of shared experience, one of those evenings we will tell younger generations about.I thought about my grandfather, Noah Albert Cleaver. He lived over a century and my twins were able to sit on his knee. He had seen women get the vote, two world wars, a depression, integration of the armed services, the rise of the civil rights movement, desegregation, seventeen presidents elected, and his grandson sworn in as mayor of Kansas City.

I am not sure he would have thought that his twin grandchildren would have had the chance to see a black President of the United States elected. Though, I know, he hoped and worked for that possibility.

Tuesday, we all took part in history.

I know many older black men and women were weeping as President-elect Obama took the stage to declare victory. It was impossible not to be moved regardless how you voted. Senator McCain was gracious in the moment and I believe the world again looked to America as the place where all things are possible.

Lines were wrapped around polling places Tuesday as we took part in our great American birthright. At poll after poll as I talked to those waiting in line, I was struck by the patience and resolve of our community to cast their vote. I have shaken hands at polling places many times in my life, and never have I seen such a jubilant and peaceful crowd. We were determined to do our part.

Since then, I've been asked many times what I thought about the election of the first black President. I think America voted once again for the nation they wanted rather than the nation they were. We have a history of choosing hope over fear.

We are not perfect, but we are as close as the world has gotten to the ideal. Tuesday the world remembered why they look to us to lead. Not because of our selection for President, but because as a nation in the middle of hardship we chose to be bold rather than cower.

And on that historic Tuesday night we reminded the world of another uniquely American quality. Since Washington decided to only serve two terms as President and John Adams was elected to succeed him, the will of the people has always led to a peaceful transition of powers. Two diametrically opposed parties can spend over a year on the battlefield of ideas and when the votes are cast and the decision is made one concedes and the other becomes President-elect. Rather than gun shots there are fireworks, and next year on January 20 at exactly noon, one party's President will walk out of the White House as the opposing party's nominee is sworn in --- a remarkably peaceful exchange.

When George Washington was sworn in as the first President he ended the oath with a simple prayer, "So help me God." Now that request is an official part of the oath of all federal offices, including the one you chose to return me to this week. Amazingly fitting.

Congress will return to session next week for what is known as a "lame duck" session. Historically not a lot is accomplished during this session, but this year we cannot afford to wait for January to make progress on righting the ship of state.

Thank you for your faith in me, it is my honor to continue to serve you and our community. I am humbled and grateful.