By Patricia Wilson-Smith
Hope really does change everything, doesn’t it?
If you’re like me, you remember the early days of the Obama campaign, when hope was all we had. We were Obama supporters before being Obama supporters was cool, back when it was one thing to know that we saw in him a quality that was unmistakably presidential -and quite another thing to think that one day he would be on the brink of actually becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee.
But we had hope. Hope that the nation would one day see what we saw, hope that neither his race, nor his age, or any other superficial deterrent would get in the way of the Senator’s rise. Hope that the greatest political machine in our nation’s history could somehow be neutralized in order to fulfill our dream of an Obama presidency. Hope.
But the hope went far, far beyond just the Senator’s electibility. As we, the soldiers of the early days made our way from house to house in the hot South Carolina sun, or stood in line waiting to see Senator Obama speak long before stadiums were necessary to contain the crowds, we also hoped for a new unity, one born of the need to move our nation in a different direction; away from failed Bush policies for sure, but also, away from a divisiveness that our partisan politics and class-warfare had only made far worse.
And so we met up with other Obama soldiers, and we planned, and we worked. Black women stood shoulder-to-shoulder with young white men and painted signs; elderly black men rode vans with Asian college students, and traded stories, sang songs. And slowly but surely, we realized (as Senator Obama put it), that we were in fact not nearly as divided as our politics would suggest.
It’s been an amazing ride, and it’s not over yet. Black Women for Obama has made a small mark on the political landscape, by proclaiming early and often that there was no moratorium on our vote, and that we believed even before the rock-star receptions on college campuses that Barack Obama was and is destined to become the next President of the United States. Not because he is a rock star, but because he’s rocked our collective political worlds, by teaching us how to look to the future as a truly united nation, and how to begin the work of leaving the past that still haunts us where it belongs – as a reminder of where we’ve been, but no deterrent to what we can become.
I have fallen madly in love with Senator Obama – sorry Michelle, it had to be said. He has renewed my faith in politicians, men, basketball players, and religion. He has reminded me that it was in the black church that those who came before me found the strength to fight for the liberties I now enjoy, and made me realize that it’s okay to “do me”, and not cling to the crutch of past racial injustices as I make my way in the world. But most importantly, he has taught me that I actually do have a voice, that can grow as loud as I dare dream for it to. He has deepened my appreciation for democracy, and reaffirmed my belief in what’s possible in this nation that I love so much. He deserves my undying love for that reason alone.
And so, let’s face it – this journey nears it’s end, and through the light at the end of the tunnel, I can see a huge, red, white, and blue sign that reads, “Barack Hussein Obama, the 45th President of these United States”. And each day that the Senator’s opponent fudges the truth, fakes the numbers, and continues to play transparent political games, my view of that sign grows a little clearer. And so hope, in practice with works and faith, becomes a vehicle for change, real honest to goodness change. And all I can ask myself as I sit here happily typing away is, “When the inauguration is over, and it’s time to get down to brass tacks, what will this nation dare to hope for next?”