Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Two Nights in an American Park

Whatever else 2008 was, it was not a slow news year: the longest election campaign ever, a worldwide economic meltdown, natural disasters, scandals large and small filled media to the brim.

But one image belongs to a history that will be passed down through generations forever and lifts the heart for whatever the years ahead may bring--Grant Park, Chicago, the night of November 4th.

A quarter of a million faces radiated the joy of renewal, a burden lifted, a dream realized, a hope brought to life--not by the man who stood before them but by the American people themselves.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible," Barack Obama said that night, "who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

Those faces stay in the memory of someone who had a far different experience in that place 40 years earlier, on a night where the world saw a different answer to the question about "the power of our democracy."

On TV screens back then, Americans were watching kids being gassed, clubbed and herded into police vans at gunpoint for exercising their freedom of speech while at the Democratic convention, Walter Cronkite was looking at the footage and telling TV viewers in disgust, "It makes us want to pack up our cameras and go home."

Those two nights in Grant Park are both part of the American story in a single lifetime, and as 2009 begins, we know there will be other nights and other scenes, some inspiring and some ugly, but it's possible to believe the new president when he quotes Martin Luther King to say that "the arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Will the arc of the Universe bend towards justice in the case of Bush and others who have committed international crimes? I certainly hope so.