President Barak Obama is rated the most popular president in American history, topping Bill Clinton and Ronald Regan. In a country built on the backs of slaves, where racism is still rampant, this is a remarkable fact.
One thing stands out, however. Obama is not the descendant of slaves. His father was a free man from Kenya, an educated one at that, and his mother a white woman from the mid-west. His ancestral load does not include an embedded sense of injustice, pain, and the horror of human cruelty that is the genetic load of black people born in America. Perhaps this enabled him to enjoy a particular brand of self-worth, freeing him to reach for the stars - and get there.
Then why the tears? A recent news clip showed the Obamas walking onto a stage the night he was elected president. Barack was holding hands with Michelle, each flanked by the two "First Daughters." Although he might have the panache of an international man, the family were undeniably black Americans, whose lineage came directly through slaves. This is not to say they bore the external signs of this tragic lineage. Quite the opposite. They stood tall, proud, and self-assured. Nonetheless, the fact that there they stood must have seemed a miracle.
That TV visual evoked sobs rising from my chest and tears flowing from my eyes. What goodness had allowed these remarkable people to stand on that stage, triumphant and humble and proud? What nightmare has now hurled us 100 years backward after such a victory of the human spirit?
The past is gone but the future lies ahead. The cancer gripping out country must be defeated lest our democracy be deemed a failed experiment. We have to reclaim our goodness or else the prevailing winds will blow us away. It will require work but work we must.