Saturday, November 08, 2008

Making History

Guest post by Frank Sorenson, aka SuperGrandpa

On Tuesday night, when we realized that the Obama campaign was planning a post-election rally in Chicago, we decided that we wanted to be there when history was made. I have been fighting a cold, but I agreed to go down to Chicago with Ellen. We stuffed pbj sandwiches into a backpack and jumped on a train to the city.

To get into the restricted seating area where the speeches would be given required admission tickets, but we knew that the park is a big place and we wanted to be there to participate in the event. People were streaming into the park, where there were several 40-foot-wide tv monitors showing election results as they came in. The crowd was enormous! People of every race, age and economic status were there (but probably not every political party). We were fortunate to have one of those very rare Indian summer days where the temperature was in the 60s—it could have been 25 with sleet.

The gathering was the best of the USA : a beautiful city, a peaceful, multicultural crowd enjoying the basic right to peacefully assemble, and the evidence of a fair election (no killings, no kidnappings, no stolen ballot boxes, etc.). Though crowded, the 200,000 or so people present all seemed to be happy to gather together to celebrate the successful election of the first Black to the US presidency.

When I was a young adult, water fountains, bathrooms, and even restaurants were segregated in many areas of the south. Many jobs were not available to blacks (in the south and in the north), even though they may have had the same qualifications as the whites who got the jobs. Growing up in Utah, I didn’t even know of these inequalities!! It wasn’t until I served in the army, visited the south, and read histories that I understood the latent racism that took so long to die.

This week we had an election where 110+ million people voted without threats or coercion; the outgoing president will not call up the Marines to keep himself in power; nobody will “suspend the constitution” and declare himself a dictator-for-life. The most powerful position in the world will be changed peacefully and smoothly because the entire nation is run by laws and proper procedures. And the new president will be a black man! We have truly come a long way from the days of Jim Crow.

We cheered as projections came on the big screen. We tried to position ourselves so we could see the screen nearest us, but it was difficult because of the enormous crowd. We needed to catch a 10:40 pm train back to Naperville, and stayed as long as we dared. We had left the park and were on Michigan Avenue when word came that McCain was going to concede defeat. We could tell something had happened because of the roar of the crowd. Where we were, there were 200 people entering the park for every 1 person leaving! Cars were honking, people were cheering, and everyone was a friend to everyone. Most blacks admit they NEVER thought it would be possible for a black to be elected.

So, while we were not able to shake hands with the president-elect, at least we can say we were there on the night history was made.

1 comment:

david & michal coombs said...

that is so cool! i got goosebumps just reading this!