Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Telling the story of hope

To my mind the most remarkable passage in Obama's post-election speech (well, it had me weeping into my first coffee of the day) was towards the end and featured the story of a 106 year old black woman voter. It's still on the BBC website

It has not featured on any of the news coverage I've seen today which I find surprising because the media has been talking about not only historic the victory is but how close historically Obama is to the days of the civil rights movement and before that the voter rights legislation and before that emancipation, etc..

Anyway, this is what he said:

'This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome". Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.'

Amazing - as I said, it had me in tears. As he also said 'while we breathe, we hope' and we hope because sometimes extraordinary things happen.

2 comments:

Nathan said...

I think for me the real measure of the success of this election will be how America changes in regard to its position in, and attitude to, the world.

Catriona said...

It will be very interesting to see how all this works out won't it?

If you are in the mood for some total nonsense, I have just tagged you with a daft meme thingy.