Four years ago, the day after Barack Obama was elected America’s first black president while trumpeting a message of hope and change, I wrote a column recounting dark days in this country. Beginning with the first line of a Langston Hughes poem — “I, too, sing America” — and acknowledging the sacrifices of those who fought for my right to vote, I proclaimed that through Obama’s election I had witnessed a new daybreak in America. I truly believed it. While writing that column on election night, I sensed the presence of my ancestors and freedom-loving people of all races across generations. I invoked the names Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass; Abraham Lincoln and Sojourner Truth; W.E.B. and Booker T.; Franklin and Eleanor; John and Bobby; and Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Viola Liuzzo, all my heroes.
It was an emotion I had never experienced and one I found difficult to explain. “My country, ‘tis of thee,” took on a new meaning. And, yet, before that new day in America saw its first sunset after Obama’s inauguration, there were those plotting to destroy his presidency even if it meant harming the country. The enemies of this president, including leaders in Congress, were bold in declaring they wanted to see him fail, and by any means necessary. The opposition in the House and Senate even rejected proposals that had been Republican ideas that they had previously supported. There was viciousness to their steadfastness. Their relentless rejections of the president’s plans during the worst recession since the Great Depression were unbelievable and, frankly, disheartening.
A year after Obama took office, while speaking to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin asked the question the conservatives loved: “How’s that hope-y, change-y thing working out for ya?” I have this question that I hope you would answer honestly: What shape would this country be in right now had John McCain and Palin been elected instead of Obama and Joe Biden? A few more questions: what would have happened to some of the largest financial institutions? How many autoworkers would be unemployed? For those unemployed for an extended time, would the federal government have stepped in to provide them more aid?
I don’t even want to think how a McCain-Palin administration would have dealt with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or responded to the thousands of veterans in need of medical, physical, mental and emotional assistance, and, jobs. As I’ve done times before, I will challenge Americans to ask themselves why it is that so many hate Obama despite benefiting from many of his policies.
I beg that you answer my questions honestly. It’s been sad for me to see this president constantly under siege, but I admire how he perseveres regardless of the distractions, agitations and unbelievable obstacles he has faced throughout his first term. I have faith that Obama will be re-elected. And despite those who make fun of that 2008 message, the president will continue his agenda of change and remain a symbol of hope for many.