Nancy Giles: Yes, We Did!

President-elect Barack Obama waves after giving his acceptance speech at Grant Park in Chicago Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) AP Photo/Morry Gash

President-elect Barack Obama has millions of well-wishers around the world, including our Contributor Nancy Giles:

He'll be the first African American President of the United States: Barack Hussein Obama.

By the way, "Hussein" is Arabic for "good-looking." I'm just saying.

When Obama was declared the winner, millions cheered, cried and jam-packed the streets here and around the world.

What did I do? I just sat there and stared at the television.

I thought of my parents who didn't live to see this happen. Did the word spread up there?

I thought of my ancestors - slaves - considered property, not human beings.

I thought of how I'm used to voting for white presidential candidates, choosing the one that seemed most sympathetic to black folks and how I never thought a person of color would be president. Not in my lifetime.

I'm still trying to process this. Walking on the street yesterday, I looked at people's faces and thought, "We have an African American president now."

Hey, everybody! The leader of the free world is a black man! He's in charge! Hey!

My thoughts were so loud I thought I was screaming. The thing is, I never thought that Barack Obama transcended race. What a dopey idea!

It reminded me of when I was in college and one of my new friends told me tearfully that he didn't see me as black; he saw me as Nancy.

And I cried, too, thinking that college would be a holding-hands on the mountain top, Martin Luther King-like experience …

… Until I realized, second semester, that if he didn't see me as black, he was blind.

Race, ethnicity, they're not the easiest things to talk about.

Now Barack Obama is a biracial African American. Listen to what he says about race:
"Working together, we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams."
He started an important conversation. President-elect Obama faces the country in a major economic crisis. Our confidence in the government is at a new low. Despite these challenges, look at the faces on Tuesday night: Hopeful, excited. There's an electricity. Change is in the air.

And speaking of change, damn it, I'm going to get myself in shape … for something.

Can the political parties in Washington reach across the aisle and achieve some common goals for our country? That's what the majority of Americans want. And for right now, it feels like, Yes, we can!
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