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Good Morning Hope: Obama Election Stories

  • "This has been truly the most inspiring moment in our lifetime -- second only to Nelson Mandela's release and his inauguration. I am in Dubai attending the World Economic Forum as a member of the Human Equality and Dignity Council. The summit begins in an hour, and all conversations are inspired by Obama's win. Incredible really" (November 7, 2008).
    • Dr Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Professor of Psychology, University of Cape Town, and ex-member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • "I write on the morning of Barack Obama's victory speech. This is a risky thing to do as I am on an emotional high. But he raised political discourse to a higher level with a new vision and integrity. His victory reflects the values he has espoused and this deserves recognition. Even the defeated McCain displayed dignity and generosity in his response. It is a long time since anything in the United States has inspired me, but Obama seems to be someone special".
    • Professor Ben Turok, African National Congress MP, Cape Town, South Africa
  • "I find myself texting 'Good morning to an Obama world' to two adult sons. I don't text such messages. Why should this morning feel any different? I wake up another - teenage - son and tell him the election result and wonder why I wish him to share this moment - is it momentous? I myself was woken by enthusiastic exclamation on the radio; a commentator barely able to contain contagious excitement. Was this where it originated? But I can remember where I was when Kennedy was killed; too young to know what it meant, but at three years, just old enough to feel distress and to know my mother was truly upset as tears rolled down her face as she bathed me in the bath in suburban England. And I can remember where I was when 9/11 took place and the sense of disbelief on the face of two bewildered American tourists who had lost their way in the provincial city where I lived; how I wished afterwards I had said what I had thought: something terrible has happened, here's my phone number if you just need a family to come to. Is this our Kennedy time? The sense of hope which our parents said they felt when he was elected? My son reads a student's pessimistic outlook from a newspaper supplement the day before - what if they kill him? Whatever comes next, the arrival of this particular moment in time is historic for reasons I am not even sure I wish to explore, simply feel; the record turnout at the polls, the sense of collective positive action, motivating change, change we need indeed."
    • Helen Jury , Art Psychotherapist, Artist, Artist Researcher
  • "When I switched on the radio this morning, I just caught a bit of Obama's victory speech and scribbled it down on the edge of a newspaper. As I sat down at the computer to write a talk, I wove it in almost without thinking:
    "Narrative relates the uniqueness of each individual self and life story to the universality of human experience within an intricate web of mutuality - as Barack Obama said in his victory speech, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared.
    Never thought I would ever quote an American president - well, apart from John F. Kennedy's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" which to German ears translates very nicely as "I am a doughnut."
    • Solveigh Goett, MA Textile Artist and Researcher
  • "I went up to New Hampshire yesterday along with some students and was amazed by the organization and spirit of this campaign. My students knocked on doors in trailer parks and even convinced a man flying a confederate flag to vote for Obama. I stood in front of Keene High School with my nine year old daughter and her friend as they chanted, "I say 'Barack", you say "Obama, I say "America," you say "Change!" Volunteers had travelled from all over New England, some spending the night at strangers' homes. At one point, when we were outnumbered by McCain supporters by about 4 to 1, I flagged down one of the Obama organizers who was bringing food for poll workers (these folks deserve a special shoutout for staying all day doing this important work). Within half an hour they had moved over supporters from another site. I was also encouraged in that the interactions between Obama and McCain supporters were civil and even good-humoured, with one McCain supporter joking with the girls and asking if they wanted to come over and hold his sign. I was moved to tears by the interview with John Lewis last night where he declared this a "non-violent revolution." As I have been hearing from so many people, I am proud to be an American today - and excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work in turning this ship around".
    • Miliann Kang, Assistant Professor, Women's Studies UMASS Amherst
  • "I am not an African-American, I am not even American, at least not yet (I will eventually get a green card through my husband). But the story of Barack Obama has inspired me since he first announced his candidacy. The odds were stacked against him and still he managed to get a higher education and a family to love. My life has been just the same.
The fact that the US elected a president with an uncommon name (mine is uncommon too) makes me see how this is still the land of possibilities. What I admire the most, and I am not sure that this is something that most people think of, is that a scholar and a thinker was elected to the White House. Somebody that is not tainted by the old-fashioned politics of Washington. Someone that will always think first, and act second. No matter how unpopular some of his policies may be, I am more likely to accept them because they come from a human being whose intellect I respect.

I came to the US looking for "first-world" ways of thinking. I did not want to succumb to the "immediacy" that permeates life in the third world. I came looking for ways of being, thinking, and working that included a long-term vision. That did not compromise my future or that of the generations to come. I have found what I am looking for in many places, but I have also seen how "immediacy" has also played a part in recent events, such as the housing market crash.
The morning of November the 5th was certainly one of the best of my life and my children's life. Someone that I trust will be in charge. Someone that I like was liked by many. Someone with capacity, that believed in himself and it superior values will be in charge. I pledge to help".
    • Valkiria Durán-Narucki, Doctoral Candidate, Environmental Psychology Graduate Center, CUNY
  • "I never thought that I would live to see an African American chosen as president of the United States and Im not even Black. I was so excited about election 2008. I was deeply disappointed in 2004 but I felt a new consciousness rising this year. This change began within myself and I felt deep in my heart that this election would be different. I was going to vote after I dropped off my two eldest children at school which was open because they attend Catholic school but my daughter asked me what voting was like. She wanted to know what the polling section looked like and I tried to explain it to her but figured, I could show her so I waited until they got off from school and took both of them. That turned out to be a great idea because I gave them the talk about how it wasn't so long ago that women and minorities could not vote and how a small group of individuals deemed that to be unfair and fought to change those laws. I continued about how these brave individuals fought hard for the right to vote and that everyone should do their part and vote. We got to the polling place and I told the woman that I wanted my children to come inside with me. As I was choosing my candidates, I stopped to let them click on the little levers to choose Barack Obama.
My daughter who is in 3rd grade had their own election at school and their school chose McCain. It wasn't a surprise to me as most of the parents in that school are primarily conservative and ignorant. My daughter chose Obama. My nephew came out of school crying and his mom asked him why he was upset. His friend told her that he had chosen Obama and was upset that he had lost. I was laughing on the inside and told my nephew that their election at school was not real but today's election would be real. I also added that after today (the day of the election) that there would be one person crying and I didn't think it would be Obama. My niece also said that there were people in her class who were prejudiced. Did I mention the ignorance level in this ultra conservative environment we live in? I told her that there will always be people like that in the world. Going back to our voting experience, I told my children that we are making history today and asked if they were excited to be a part of history today. I also beamed about how little people like us could make big decisions such as choosing who we want as our president. I think they were more excited over the Democratic donkey beanie baby I bought them to honour this momentous occasion.

They were fast asleep as I watched the election polls on television. It was a close race and McCain had won a few more electoral votes but when 11pm rolled around and I saw that Obama had won California and Virginia, I felt such hopefulness that I haven't felt in a long time. I felt hopeful that maybe racial divides could be overcome and that the best candidate won regardless of the colour of his skin. I felt hopeful that I could enact change in the world. I also felt hopeful that the world is moving toward unity instead of separateness. I think the move toward unity was what struck me the most and it brought tears to my eyes that my own children could be president of the United States one day. I felt part disbelief and part joy. I really felt that this was living proof that we, the people, have the power to choose who we want as president. I had lost that hope four years ago and now it was restored in full force. I was surprised to see so many Republican states choose Obama. Even Florida chose Obama which I found to be the funniest part of this election. That instilled a lot of faith in me that the people who were the deciding factor in the 2000 election were ready for a change themselves. November 4, 2008 will always be a day where my faith was restored in the world and as a sign to the universe that we are all moving toward a change that will unite us all".
    • Catherine Ma-Chu, PhD Candidate, Graduate Center at the City University of New York
  • "In 1983, when applying to college, I had to write an essay about a pivotal event in my life. I chose to write about Vanessa Williams being the first black Miss America, and what that meant about my own beauty, as an African-American female. And I was accepted to the college of my choice.
    Now many years later, I am a teacher, on my way to work, about to cast my vote for the first African-American president. I am filled with excitement and energy and know that teaching will be difficult to do today. We will of course talk some about the election and the process that will happen as the votes are counted. But hopefully tomorrow I will greet my students and all of them, brown and black alike, will know that one day they could grow up to be president. A beautiful thing".
    • Valerie
  • "Towards social Inclusion for all minorities and migrants in the African and Arab worlds!
    The great victory of Obama as the first African-origin/immigrant president of the United States should present a source of hope and inspiration for all those who are left behind; deprived from their civil rights in our countries based on their "divergent origins".
    It is time for us to highlight the marginality and injustice that those "foreigners" have to experience in their everyday life. It is high time for the states in our region to reform their citizenship laws and reconcile them with civilised visions and with universal human rights values and standards.
    No matter how long they have been living in their "countries of migration", even for decades, those "migrants" continue to be perceived as foreigners others and the impact is severe on their socio-economic, political and citizenship rights. The examples are immense but to mention a few, here you go: "the Sudanese early migrants in Egypt", the Stateless in Kuwait", "the Ethiopian early migrants in Sudan, etc".
    • Amira Ahmed, PhD Candidate, University of East London
  • A Snapshot of Life before Barack Obama
    "I arrived in New York City in the late spring of 1946 after a two week voyage from Cardiff to Montreal. It had been like one long Christmas party and as we approached Canada we threw most of our worn and patched underwear into the Atlantic. From Montreal we finally arrived at Grand Central Station where we were met by my father. From there we went by yellow cab to our new home.
Like London, New York was experiencing a housing shortage and we were lucky to have a home to go to; it certainly turned out to be an extraordinary experience. We British children had been brought up on the movies during war time but glamorous our new home was certainly not. It consisted of one large room in a basement in which my parents slept and a very small one looking out on a yard for me. The kitchen and bathroom were new but did not match today's standards. In those days, everybody smoked, outside and in, so there was a constant sound of spitting.

The house belonged to Ruth Ellington, sister of Duke Ellington, and her white husband, Daniel James and their two little boys. Although I knew that racist attitudes existed, being in New York was the first time I had experienced racialism. It was not expressed, however, but was underhanded. My mother was questioned by neighbours, in a friendly way, as to how much rent we were paying. She answered honestly. Later we heard that our landlord had been reported to the Rent Tribunal. I think the neighbouring property owners were terrified their properties would lose value if the street turned black. The wild parties overhead did not help either. Duke had a room in the house and members of the band would let rip on the sultry nights. Inevitably the police were called.

My parents thought that all American children attended their local school - no more school fees. So I was immediately enrolled at the Julia Richmond High School across town, well towards the end of the school year. My Bromley (then in Kent) school numbers had dwindled considerably due to the bombing but Julia Richmond was enormous, I think well over one thousand. I got completely lost and was very happy to get sudden acute appendicitis after two weeks.

Come the Autumn/Fall, I was enrolled at a very expensive all girls school on the east side, Lenox, 170 East 70th, and awarded a part scholarship. During my four years there we had no black girls (of any hue). The school has long since amalgamated and this situation has completely changed.

In my fourth year, senior year in those days, I was elected school head girl by the whole school (not appointed by the headmistress). We had moved out of the basement into a large new housing development called Peter Cooper village; here too there were no black tenants nor did I ever see a black guest riding in the elevator or sitting on the garden seats or entering another flat.

I'm told that this situation too has long since changed but nevertheless, my experience was not of Dixie; it was New York 60 years ago".
    • Barbara Carter
  • "I watched this very very special event until 2 o'clock last night on TV, and continued early in the morning - this was the first time in my live that I watched TV in the morning!)
I was really moved when I saw Obama on stage as the new president of the USA. Seeing all these people, their passion, their happiness and Obama - I had tears in my eyes) it must have been so hard to you in all these years, having inside your heart this "hidden spirit" of America for which you love your country - and only the odd side was visible/communicated for the world.

I was most touched by the hope of the people and their activism, their believe that things can be changed, that obviously many people realized their ability to take individual responsibility. They must have been really aware about the importance of every singular vote.

We had many interesting interviews last night on TV - and it was mostly this positive attitude of "yes we can" what touched me also - I was reminded of my time in the US in 1983 - I had this wonderful feeling of adventureness inside myself, I experienced a lot of support of the people around me - this kind of positive strength forwards.

More than 20 years ago, I feel reminded of that feeling - which was mine, due to my age, my youth gave me this energy, it was naturally part of myself - over the years I have lost it - or "used it up" - no more credit from circumstances like "youth".

So trying to find out, what is so appealing to me about this whole phenomenon, about Obama's words "yes we can " and "Change" - it is this positive strength forwards, to dare the (seeming) impossible.

Coming back to Obama, he really has to face a lot of problems, yet, he goes forwards. That's what I like about him.

I feel a parallel to my feelings of being German - this mail of yours strengthened this feeling - you describe an experience which we (maybe worse because the facts were much worse) had /have (my generation for sure) all the time because of Second World War - it was so terrible and so hard to live with the feeling of - sort of "being disabled or having a stigma" just from belonging to that nation who at a time before you were born had - voted for that crazy maniac Hitler and to surrender themselves under his regime or even to support it. To be German, to be part of that nation whose soldiers through their actions contributed to all these terrible things ... And the obvious/not hidden - yet so understandable - negative feelings towards oneself from "everywhere" I felt so helpless, both sides felt helpless, sort of. It was like " everything is bad about you - whatever you do - you are German and therefore you are bad" (simply spoken). Patriotism in a positive sense was unimaginable for our generation - it was very irrational and unlogical (when I was in Paris at the age of 15/16 (1975) I avoided to speak German - I did not want to be part of all these projections of hostility....luckily these attitudes have changed we tried to work about our German history with that German perfectionism which eliminated maybe the soft tones of live one more memory relating to this, also from my time in the US in 1983: I was invited for a barbeque in a Jewish family in NY ... all my German history dwelled up in myself, suddenly standing around in that garden the whole situation was like a movie inside myself and imagined how it must have been during / before Second World War for Jewish-Germans and their families, like this family I was invited - and all of a sudden chased, captured, murdered - and there was this relaxed happy atmosphere of the barbeque and inside myself these terrible imaginations I think I was so embarrassed and felt so bad about myself (just because I was German) - so I talked to the host, - a man (about 60?) about my bad feelings - I had to. He was Jewish, American. And this was the first time in my life that through this man (in my memory) he - as part of the victim nation (maybe his own family?) - well, he "consoled" me, he made me relax. Through his behaviour a burden, which was on me just from the fact of being German, was taken. I remember well this situation. It had to do with forgiving...

----so far I had been writing the other day -----

I think I wanted to share this experience with you, because you described to me how unhappy many Americans had been under the regiment of Bush, and to be confronted with the hostility of other nations, just because you are American - even if you were against Bush this evoked all these memories and associations".
    • Christine from Berlin
  • "No story, no personal story, but just the powerful - and rare - feeling of a deep hope realised.
    This morning, I wanted to run down the street with a bottle of champagne in my hand, cheering and embracing everyone - but life on the streets of Kingston upon Thames and Surbiton seems strangely unchanged so far!
    After the hope realised,a hope refreshed - that some social fossils will now pass into the archives where they belong. And that some of the deserted bombsites in our mental and political landscapes can now be reclaimed, rebuilt and reinhabited".
    • Susan from London
  • "What has been most interesting to me is the manner in which people have taken him to heart as part of their identity. My (89 year old) mother speaks about him as though he were her son; my partner and I look at each other when we hit a bump in our work or personal lives and simply say "yes, we can." He has become a touchstone for millions whose lives are changed not only by the miracle that a black man could become president of this (racist) country, but by the fact that somehow, his success is tantamount with their success, even at a time when we are all coping with an economy, a judiciary, an environment, a world in crisis. These are poor words for an experience that one feels in the bone".
    • Nora Rubenstein, Environmental Psychologist, Middleton Springs, Vermont
  • "What's my story? Well, I stayed up last night till about 12.10. When David Dimbleby on BBC1 was pretty unengaging. Rather turgid discussions and a couple of projected results from Kentucky and Vermont. No indication of when the election would come 'real'. I was struggling to stay awake. Oh stuff it. I went to bed. Exceptionally I did place a radio on my bedside table. Anyway I woke up 5.30ish and lay half awake mulling over this and that. The US election? Well we'll all find out soon enough. Then, when I realised I wasn't going back to sleep, I got up and decided to make a cup of tea and, whilst the kettle was boiling, put the TV on. Obama 345, McCain 157 - I think those were the numbers. Anyway the outcome was spelt out unambiguously in big letters. And then, almost immediately, Dimbleby was signing off. 6am, the end of the programme. All I had was the result, no flannel, no details, just the outcome. Brilliant. Such contrast to previous elections which have always been characterised by sleeplessness and ongoing doubt and anxiety".
    • Bill Bytheway, Cardiff, Wales
  • There is a general sense of euphoria and relief down here. It is as if to say, "Yes, it is over, this time of lies and greed. I can catch my breath and prepare for the hard road ahead to better, more moral place. A place where I don't have to cringe or hide when I say that I am American." Strangers tell me on the street why they are so moved by the election of Obama. They tell me of their experiences during the Civil Rights movement - remembering what it was like to see the signs that said, "Whites Only". Or they tell me, how Obama's skin colour was not at all a major factor in their voting him, but his grasp of the issues, his dignity. And how exciting is it to be elected not for the colour of your skin (or to be nominated because of your sex, like Palin) but to be nominated President because of who you are as a whole. It is a momentous point in time and one that we cannot afford to squander.
    • Louise Andrews, Washington, D.C.
  • I have been in my country Ghana since I completed my UEL course in early 2007.  Events in the US bear on the masses in Ghana.  There are challenges in the Obama voice of Change – if Ghana will pick useful lessons.  Does America need one Obama or two or three Obamas at the different levels of the US society? For people like me who work at the grassroots, the test of President-Elect Obama’s voice of Change is going to be watched more closely at the aspirations of the micro-level institutions in the deprived areas of the USA.  These institutions include the black Churches and the other community Churches, the local community projects, and the local families – black, white or brown.  I bet you the macro-level institutions and markets of the US do have the technical expertise to work on the theme of Change to their advantage.  They will even go further.  They will continue to lobby the US legislature for huge amounts of the tax payers’ money to support the expenses at the macro level implementation of Change – again to their advantage.  On the other hand, the micro-level institutions will have peanuts, if any at all.  These localized institutions and their members followed a voice of Change to vote, but they do not have the lobbying muscle to take their vote further (in a competitive American society).  So we are yet to see whether the Obama voice of Change will be Good News or Bad News to the very local stations of the US that will likely breed the future new Obamas America needs.  Is there any philanthropist, university faculty, body of civil society, body of students, etc out there who are committing themselves from 20 January 2009 to ensure the theme of Change becomes sustainable Good News for America’s localized micro level institutions?  This is where my heart is. May God grant peace and strength to President-Elect Obama and the US as a whole.
    • Regina Ama Konadu, Ghana
Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X
Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington
Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Bob Marley
Wake up and arise from your graves:
There’s a Black man in the White house
And Kenyans, a part of you is right up there
Africans, a part of you is right up there
And all those, from all communities
Who voted for you, supported you
Rosa Parks, did you imagine that?
Martin Luther King, did you dream of that?
The colour line has been broken
Broken at last! Broken at last! Yes you did dream of that
So arise, your spirit is already here
Did you know of what significance
You all are, inside and outside of America
This is a step for the whole world
Even though some are still not aware of it
Some still think they can get away with being racist
Many may still not see the need
for the Change that’s Gonna Come
And that the Change, that has been coming
Ever since the idea of Black Liberation
is Our Liberation
Whoever we are, whatever colour we are
Ever since slavery’s abolition
We are moving into liberation
The colourline has been broken
It has been broken!
And all communities played a part
In electing Obama
Blacks, Whites, all communities played a part
To get a Black man into the White house
People of all colours and none played a part
So united we stand
The colourline has been broken
This is absolute liberation
We are breaking free
Those who voted for Obama, supported Obama
And those who had given their lives
In the decades and decades of fighting against oppression
The years and years of fighting for freedom
And here we are, moving
From slavery to civil rights to Obama!
The colour line has been broken!
It feels like South Africa in 1994
The first multiracial elections
And then I heard it by the BBC
I saw it on TV
They said it was the ‘Mandela Moment’
Yes it is!
And the Nkrumah moment too
When Ghana achieved independence
The Toussaint ‘Ouverture moment
when Haiti achieved independence
so many moments to remember
but remember, we don’t just want moments of freedom
we want the whole lot
we want what we need, and what so many of us deserve
so we have to keep it up, keep up those moments
keep up the momentum!
Yes we have to think how to keep it up
Because remember Mandela in South Africa
Who tried his best for South Africa but it is not as free
As it is supposed to be
There’s still a lot of White Supremacy
The old regime is not yet dismantled
Let’s think how we can keep up the liberation
How can we dismantle racism?
And how can we get everybody to join in?
Continue to break the colourline
Until it’s gone
How can we all be One
With all inequalities overcome.          

© Ursula Troche, 11.08