Three years ago, Barack Obama spoke at the funeral of a woman that we should honor as an American founding mother. He said: “When the history of this country is written, when the final accounting is done, it is this small, quiet woman, whose name will be remembered, long after the names of senators and presidents have been forgotten…”. And he acknowledged: “I would not be here today, were it not for this small woman”.
In December 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This singular act of courage sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement, which brought an end to the U.S. apartheid system.
53 years later, Barack Obama is decisively elected America’s first black president. This huge achievement should be respected and honored by all Americans, whether they voted for him or not. So let me quote last night’s loser, who brought a tear to my eye when he told his fellow Republicans:
“A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.
In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.
This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.
I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.”
And here is what the NAACP has to say about This Moment:
“Yesterday, we ushered in a new era. Yesterday, we destroyed the remnants of Jim Crow, abolished a one-color-fits-all definition of leadership, and declared that our nation would rise above the politics of the past. Yesterday, we witnessed the most inclusive election enjoyed by the largest best- informed, motivated electorate in our nation’s history. Yesterday, we elected an African-American man to President of the United States of America.
We congratulate President-elect Barak Obama and his wife Michelle on their historic win. In this moment, 232 years in the making, we are witness to the most inclusive election enjoyed by the largest best- informed, motivated electorate in our nation’s history. In this moment — from the end of chattel slavery to today – we honor the memory of freedom fighters like Dr. Martin Luther King, Ida B. Wells, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, and so many others who gave their lives so that the promise of America can be real for all people. It is their sacrifice made this moment possible.“