21 Months
 — Helen Singleton

Both political parties are saying they don't want another lengthy election season like the one we just went through. But, for the campaign of 2008, America needed every moment of it. It took 21 months to grasp the mettle of Barack Obama. And the process revealed a lot about us all.

As an African American who had participated in the civil rights movement, I felt some familiarity with his task. It had taken years of suffering for our efforts to result in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many African Americans were wary of his candidacy. We had seen dreams deferred. And, though we knew there were many white Americans who believed in racial equality and would judge him on his merits, would enough white Americans vote for him?

I watched with apprehension as hidden prejudices were revealed. And with guarded glee as he carefully stepped around racial and political minefields. I tried to understand their resistance. He didn't have a history or a story that they could relate to. He had not experienced that historical relationship that whites had with Negroes, Coloreds, Blacks, African-Americans. He was not a sharecropper's son who had pulled himself up. He wasn't from a part of the country they could identify with culturally. He had lived in a foreign country that most Americans couldn't find on a map. His family was not poor. He didn't have that "Presidential" look that conveys experience and wisdom. His family was not rich. He was rising too fast. He had not been tested. Who does he think he is?

But he grew on us. In these 21 months we saw discipline. We witnessed toughness where difficult decisions demanded it. We saw an organizer extraordinaire. We learned from his philosophy. We agonized while he deliberated and gradually realized his brilliance. He was a quick study. He listened to those who disagreed with him. He empathized with the less fortunate. He gave credit and recognition to those who helped him. He seemed indefatigable. He kept his cool in crisis. He was what we needed in a leader.

Yes, he stands on the shoulders of those who struggled for social justice. But, I am not just proud that he is African American. I am proud that he is exceptionally well suited to lead the country at this time. And, I am proud that most Americans by choosing him chose a new identity for the nation as a moral leader of the free world. I am proud that we are beginning to live up to our promise. Yes, we are the ones we've been waiting for.

I wish my parents had lived to witness this.

Copyright © 2011, Helen Singleton


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