I have a friend I met through work and though she's moved on from the place I work at, she has kept up a correspondence and has come to visit me and my family for dinner on occasion. She is a very dear young lady (I can say that, she's ten years younger than me) whom I got to give career advice and she took it (gasp! I actually said something useful). She has moved back to Chicago, and I am sorry I won't get to have her over for dinner even once every six months anymore.
My friend is African-American, middle to upper-middle class. She has a master's degree in marketing and is doing very well in her field. The last time she came over for dinner, which was November, I told her I had to ask her point blank what it meant to her that Barack Obama had been elected to be the next president of the United States. I asked her if it really did surprise her and if it really did mean something to her. I have no idea if her experiences in life are the same or different from mine.
She told me that it made all the difference in the world. She was light-hearted about it, but she explained it really well. She said, "Sure people would always say anyone can become president, but deep in our hearts, as an African-American, we knew it didn't really apply to us." I could see that and told her that I could see that. "But now, it has really happened, and now we feel we really can do anything." She was really on a high. We were on a high, too, as we supported the man from Illinois as well.
But, on inauguration day, though I am very happy to have helped in my own small way to elect an African-American as president, I cannot, in anyway, fathom the joy and the feelings of people of color have for having an African-American as president. I am sure it must be indescribable. And I will never actually know that feeling.
I can say that I am overjoyed that the United States in my reality, is also becoming the United States in my mind. When people said anyone could become president, in my mind's eye, I did believe anyone could regardless of race, religion, sex, or any other background. I believed this as a child in the 1970s, I want to believe it as an adult. I don't care what you look like, I will support the candidate whose priorities match mine.
I know that our country is far from the ideal country that is in my head. I know there are many people who have issues because of race or sex. They may not even know that is what is holding them back. People are still raised with prejudices. It will probably still take many generations before the country in my head is the country we live in. But yesterday was as gigantic a leap for the United States as the step Neil Armstrong made on the moon.
I am glad my children are seeing it and seeing the joy people have to have faith in their government again. I am glad to be in the United States, in this time, in this part of history.
I am glad I get to say to my grandchildren, I was part of that election, I was there, I helped make it happen.