Thursday, August 28, 2008

Inclusion and Hope

I watched Senator Hillary Clinton move that Senator Barack Obama be nominated by acclamation yesterday during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. My eyes moistened. My throat tightened. My heart swelled.

I watched President Clinton and Senator John Kerry in their resounding endorsements of Senator Obama. I watched Senator Joe Biden talk about why he supports Senator Obama. My eyes moistened. My throat tightened. My heart swelled.

I watched Senators Obama and Biden walk hand in hand onstage in Denver after Senator Biden made his speech accepting nomination as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party last night.

It has been an emotional experience watching inclusion in action.

I am 55 years old. I was born in southwest Arkansas. I started segregated school in the two-room Rosenwald Elementary School in 1957 the same fall that the 9 black students bravely entered Little Rock Central High School. I drank from segregated water fountains, received food from the back of restaurants, and vividly recall segregated waiting rooms.

I watched the 1963 March on Washington, like many others, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his dream about a society where people of all ethnic, religious, and regional, and philosophical backgrounds would fashion a community of shared values. Like people across the world, I was inspired, even at ten years old.

I watched Presidents Kennedy and Johnson deal with segregation and the violence directed at Dr. King, Medgar Evers, Freedom Riders, and voting rights activists who risked life, limb, and their emotional wholeness trying to make inclusion real in the United States. I recall the numbing pain of the attacks on civil rights marchers in Selma, Birmingham, and other places. I was 15 when Dr. King was murdered in Memphis and when Senator Robert Kennedy was murdered two months later in Los Angeles.

I am a U.S. Army veteran who knows how to "suck it up" and hold emotion inside myself. I am a lawyer and judge. I am an ordained minister and former pastor who has endured personal tragedies and sorrows, and who has comforted others in similar experiences.

Watching what happened in Denver yesterday evening made my eyes moist, my throat tighten, and my heart swell.

I was watching what my parents, grandparents, and so many others had prayed, hoped, and told me would someday happen. I was watching what Dr. King spoke about in his "I Have A Dream" speech. I was watching what people of hope, faith, and goodwill have been talking about throughout American history.

I do not know who will be elected President of the United States in the November 2008 election. I do not know how the coming weeks of campaigning will unfold. I do not know who will vote, who will not vote, or why people will vote as they vote.

I simply know that Barack Obama and Joe Biden represent what people of goodwill in the United States have hoped and worked to achieve for generations. I only know that we are witnessing world history unfolding. We are watching answered prayers. We are watching hope being vindicated. We are watching inclusion and hope. I do not apologize for my emotions. No, I am simply thankful that I have the blessed opportunity to witness what people everywhere hold dear. No matter who we are or where we live, people hope to be included as equally worthy of aspiring for opportunity.

I am glad my eyes moisten, my throat tightens, and my heart swells. I will not be ashamed of those reactions today, tonight, tomorrow, or in the future. I will simply continue to pray, work for inclusion, and hope.

Let's pray, work, and hope together.

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