The POTUS delivered tonight! Eight years ago, I watched as the newly elected Barak Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two beautiful daughters walked into a Chicago park to celebrate his election. I admit as I watched tears streamed down my face. Why? Because never did I imagine in my life I would love to see an African American President. They look like me, I thought, and I was so very proud. In his eight years as President Barak Obama has faced more push back than probably any other President in history. From day one, there was no desire to work together, no willingness to compromise. The mission was clear from the right; this man must fail. Was some of it political? Undoubtedly so. Was some of it racial? I think the rise of Donald Trump and his message of division answers that. Yet through it, all the President remained dignified and pushed on with his agenda. His administration remained scandal-free. Time will pass, and history will tell his story. If I were to bet, I would bet it will be a remarkable story indeed. Tonight I couldn’t help but see that there was something symbolic in our nation’s first African American President passing the baton to what very well could be our first woman president. Come this November, a generation of young women may get to look on as President-Elect Clinton takes the stage to celebrate her victory. She a woman just like me, they may think, and they will undoubtedly be very proud. There is no disputing the fact that we’ve come a long way, but it is evident that we still have a way to go in regards to race relations and gender equality as a country. Yet if you watched President Obama and Secretary Clinton together on stage tonight in Philly, it’s clear, we are on the right road indeed.
Come this November election, get out and vote, be it for Clinton or Trump, because what makes America great is the passing of executive power peacefully from one President to another based on the results of a democratic election.
With that said, let us understand that this election, more than any other, is for the soul of America. Clinton may have her warts, but almost everyone who gets to this level does. But with Trump, we have a candidate who has run a campaign based on divisiveness, bigotry, racism, and misogyny for all intents and purposes. He has advocated violence against those that oppose him and mocked the physical disabilities of others. The NYT ran an editorial today asking is he racist. His supporters will denounce it as the liberal media looking to take him down, but the fact is when there is a 40-year trail of smoke, there is likely some fire there as well.
America is unique in that, above all other countries, its identity is based on the many’s contributions and cultures, not the one. America is a true melting pot. But with that comes the inherent problem of certain individuals always willing to pit one group against another to maintain their so-called position in society or advance that position. It has happened to many groups. The Irish American people faced prejudice, racism, and discrimination after immigrating to the United States because they were poor, uneducated, less skilled, considered disruptive, and were Catholics in a land of Protestant dominance. The largest mass lynching in U.S. history took place in New Orleans in 1891 — and it wasn’t African-Americans who were lynched, as many of us might assume. It was Italian-Americans. The reaction of our country’s leaders to the lynchings? Teddy Roosevelt, not yet President, famously said they were “a rather good thing.” The response in The New York Times was worse. March 16, 1891, editorial referred to the victims of the lynchings as “… sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins.” And John Parker, who helped organize the lynch mob, later went on to be governor of Louisiana. In 1911, he said of Italians that they were “just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in [their] habits, lawless, and treacherous.” I could write pages on the African American’s systematic discrimination in this country, but it is well documented. From slavery to Jim Crow to ongoing racism, America’s African American experience is one of perseverance and survival.
Now I am not naive enough to not acknowledge that there are evil groups of people who would kill others for a variety of reasons in today’s world. But I do believe that it is for this precise reason that we need to come together as a people, not pull apart. We are in a better position to combat evil together than apart. We can not look to those who only know how to prey on our fears for leadership. We can not look to those who spew hate to combat hate. We can not look to those who pine for a time when this country was full of division, but instead, we must continue to move forward toward a country of unity.
Come this November, this election is for the soul of America.