Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Comments from friends (and my dad)

I've been deluged with emails from friends and family today.  Below I share some of my favorites.
1) My parents were among the first people to join the Peace Corps (where they met and married) in the early 1960s, thanks to being inspired by JFK.  They haven't been inspired by anyone else in the same way until Obama.  They now live, work and are retiring in Kenya, which is going so crazy over Obama's victory that the government declared a national holiday tomorrow!!!  Here's an email from my dad:

I sponsored an Obama party at the office today to the delight of everyone.  There is Obama mania in Kenya and the President here has called a national holiday tomorrow in celebration of Obama’s victory.  Obama’s father was from western Kenya.

I began my remarks with the first quote below from Obama’s speech today and ended my comments with the last quote.  In the middle, I said that for the US to elect a black man for President was a defining moment in our history given our experience with slavery and, even in the time of my youth, there was a system of apartheid in parts of the country.  But I said that race was not the most important issue for me, but the man himself.  I noted similarities with JFK – bright, young, handsome, eloquent and inspirational.  It was hard for me to keep from choking up. A very emotional day.


“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, 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.”


“And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.”

2) Friend #1:
I am over the moon and have been forcing back tears all night. 
I was raised in St. Louis, MO by socially liberal parents, but I vividly remember incidences of blatant racism -- being refused entry to a swim club, because my sister invited a black friend with (1971) -- (we never set foot in that swim park again); having a black minister's car vandalized while he was in speaking to our Lutheran congregation -- (it was the last time my family went to a formal church service).
So, I think McCain was incomplete last night when he said,

"This is a historic election, and I recognize the significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight," Mr. McCain said, adding, "We both realize that we have come a long way from the injustices that once stained our nation's reputation."

Rather, this election has special significance for everyone in our nation and we all (should) have special pride in this victory.  But, that seems to be one of the many differences between McCain and Obama -- McCain not realizing that the "real" America is a diverse fabric, not groups of "us" and "them."  Btw, did you notice that McCain's "invite only" crowd at the Biltmore was virtually all white?

Congratulations to us all...
3) Friend #2:
It's the dawn of a new day.
You're probably too young to remember the day in 1968 when a police riot broke out in Grant Park during the Democratic convention. Uhh...I'm not. I remember looking on in horror (I was already living in California) as my home town was turned into a battle ground. It was the beginning of the end of the Chicago and the America in which I had grown up.
Last night was what we call in Hebrew a tikkun, a fixing. We've been given a golden opportunity to restore our country to greatness--and goodness. And Grant Park has once again become sacred space.
I also made some predictions, mine a few weeks ago:
1. Barack Obama would be the next President of the United States
2. He'll regret it
3. Sarah Palin will become a regular on Saturday Night Live
Number 1 has come to pass, thank God. I hope I'm wrong about Number 2, and that the burden of setting this country back on track doesn't overwhelm him and those who will serve with him.
I hope I'm right about #3. She'd make a great rock star, as long as she stays out of politics.
Congratulations, and thank you for your role in making this happen.
PS--Amidst all the excitement, we lost another great American (and Chicagoan, I might add) last week: Studs Terkel. Throughout the turmoil of the sixties (he and his wife were present at the Grant Park scene in '68) and practically until last week, Studs remained the philosopher-poet of working people. You might want to check out his obit and pass it along:
4) From a Nigerian friend who lives in London:
I stayed up to watch it to about 5am UK time. The BBC coverage was funny! Some of the BBC reporters were verbally attacked by Republicans they were interviewing. One of the Republicans who unsporting threw his toys out of the pram was Ambassador John Bolton (real piece of work) who was in the BBC studio in DC.
He attacked BBC reporter  Katty Kay for saying that John McCain made an error in choosing Palin who might have chased away McCain's independents arguing that she energised the base. Bolton and Katty Kay had a really bad argument on air till the BBC anchor cut it off. John Bolton then went on to demand another BBC reporter be fired 40 mins later!! He felt the BBC reporter didn't know his American politics after the BBC reporter told a Republican Chief in Colorado he was interviewing that  that Colorado had voted Republican 9 of 10 times for the presidency. The Republican Chief countered that Colorado has voted more Democrat in other races (Guv etc) and proceeded like Bolton to accuse the reporter of not knowing his American politics. We all know folks are in Colorado are more Republican. Both BBC reporters stood up to the bullies and it made great viewing here in London early in the morning.
God bless Obama and America!!
-- From a foreigner who probably doesn't understand American politics but predicted a landslide for Obama in 2004 and I should have put money on it in 2004 when the odds were pretty slim
5) Friend #4:
I'm a 29 year old black man who went to Columbia business school and am a value investor. I never thought I'd see a black person elected to our highest office, so this is still very surreal. Shoot, my granddad was an instructor for the Tuskegee Airmen, so I can't wait to call tomorrow and see how he feels! 

Anyway, I've been more active in this election than in past years because of my displeasure with the current administration and my belief in Obama and what he represents, both tangibly and intangibly. I have learned a lot on my own and definitely through your emails. They have served as a great source of ammo is I constantly debate my friends on many issues regarding why they should vote for Obama! It's a great night, and thanks for the part you played. Now on to the tough part...I look forward to the future!
6) Friend #5:
cannot vote yet (I become a citizen in three years), but having grown up in Brazil, I harbor the most intense disrespect for politicians. To paraphrase Charlie, to compare politicians to sewers is an insult to sewage.

It really seems this guy who won is different. He really seems like someone we can admire. I hope we're not mistaken -- I hope he's honest and really the person he projects he is.

What an unbelievable moment. Not only the US, but the world, was voting for him. This will change our image to ourselves and abroad, and only for the better. A young, dynamic, thoughtful person. WOW!
7) Friend #6:
I had to write to say thank you!  I know you do what you do because you love it and feel strongly about it, but I wanted to let you know how it impacted one guy from Upstate NY.  As busy as I am I read every one of your e-mails and use them as fuel at cocktail parties, holidays, and other occasions where my conservative friends and family gather.  Some of them even voted for Obama because my logic and passion were too much for them...and at the end they agreed.
Also, I was never very involved in politics other than just writing checks, which I stopped doing a few years ago because I didn't feel like I could spend the amount of money it would take to get noticed.  However, when I got your e-mail the other night about phone banks, I figured I would give it a shot and I went down to the Bowery Hotel (I was in my NYC office for a few days), and I had a blast!   
This whole campaign renewed my interest in public discourse and energized me.  Thanks for being the catalyst! 
8) Friend #7:
Thanks to you, I first heard Barack Obama speak in a Central Park South living room, long before he began his formal run for the White House.  I still have the notes on my desk.
Yesterday was such an amazing day -- from standing cheek-by-jowl with my neighbors at 6 a.m. at my East 88th Street polling place -- to cheering with HBS friends as Pennsylvania and Ohio went for Obama.  And finally, I watched Barack's speech at home last evening with tears running down my face.   What an impossible dream. 
My next thought was, let's get to work to fix this country and this world.  Yes, we can......and so we will with the support, brainpower, sweat and prayers of people like you.


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