Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I still remember election night 1992, my first presidential election. I was 18 years old and a first-year in college, away from home for the first time. Ronald Reagan was the first president I and my classmates could remember, and we had spent almost all of our childhoods under Republican administrations. Now, finally, we were ready and able to voice our opinions, to make a change, to usher in a new era—to vote. I remember walking the halls of my dorm until late at night, the lights on in every room, televisions tuned to the news in every lounge and common room, large groups of 18-year-olds bursting with energy and excitement glued to the incoming results. I can still remember running from room to room, giddy with the feeling that not only were things going to change, but that we had made them change, listening to groups of my classmates singing choruses of “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” loudly and off-key from every lounge in the dorm.
Sixteen years later, on another election day, I am feeling all the emotions that that 18-year-old me felt, only more so. Sixteen years ago, I was just a kid, only just beginning to realize what it meant to be politically active and responsible, to be a citizen. Then, we thought in vague generalities about “the future” and “changing the world.” We were in college—that’s what we were supposed to do. Today, those phrases are so much more concrete. When I say “the future,” I am speaking my daughters’ names. When I talk of “changing the world,” I am planning out the legacy I leave them.
I remember, during college, coming across a copy of an obscure, recent memoir by a biracial lawyer in the library during one of my “multiracial studies” research jaunts, looking for stuff about people like me. When, a few years later, a classmate emailed other alums of color asking for support for a Harvard Law alum running for office, I recognized the name, and took note. When that same man took to the stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and gave voice to the unspoken hopes and desires lodged in my heart, I held my breath and dried my tears and thought, this man is going to do something. Change is coming.
When he first threw his hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination, I like many I knew, was hopeful, but still thought, no, not yet, he’s not ready, but he will be. But with every speech, and every new vision of the future, I became more convinced. It was time. If not not, when?
When I sent in my absentee ballot last week with my vote for Barack Obama for President of the United States of America, I voted not only for myself, but for all those on whose shoulders I’ve stood on, and for all those who’ve struggled and journeyed with me, and, most especially, for my daughters, and for theirs, and for all who will come after. I voted as a multiracial American yearning for a future that looks like me. I voted as a fighter for social justice who has to believe that ideas like “hope” and “change” have the power to move mountains. I voted as a father who wants his children to grow up in a world where it’s a given that they can do whatever they put their minds to, and where it’s doubly a given that to fight for what’s right is what it means to be not just an American but a human being. I’ve seen the saying all over the internet recently, and I believe it, I feel it inside: “Rosa sat so Martin could walk; Martin walked so Barack could run; Barack ran so our children could fly.” This is the promise, this is the legacy.
On Halloween, my first-born daughter’s birthday, we came home to find that the “No on Proposition 8” sign in our front yard had been taken down, torn in half, stuffed in a tree, and replaced with a neighbor’s stolen “Yes on 8” sign. This is the world we live in, where fear and disagreement lead to hate and human dignity is given short shrift. That is not the world I want to raise my children in. I have no illusions that, by electing Barack Obama president, the world will magically change overnight. But change is going to come. It’s already begun.
And when our second daughter is born not long after Inauguration Day, she will carry a reminder of this always, in her name. Her middle name will remind us of what we all need, and of what we all can give to each other.
[Hat-tip to Raymond Roker for the video from Vote for Our Future which is at the top of this post.]
[Crossposted from daddy in a strange land.]