A Call to the Best in Each of Us
It was an evening of triumph without triumphalism, victory without vindictiveness. There was no “It’s our turn,” no dualism—us/them. A profound sense that we are in it together, that the better angels in each of us is being summoned, to me marked one of the most remarkable days in American history. Service did not seem to be framed as sacrifice or as a more Calvinist command (you must balance your ledger), rather that all of us are needed to put our shoulders to the wheel—more of an invitation, an honored invitation, to serve. I feel the coming of a more civil and giving society. Yes, race was an issue, but only in part: more of, that’s in back of us, and now we’ve got real work to do—together.
John McCain’s brilliant and gracious concession speech underscored the need to (and his commitment to) work together on the daunting problems confronting our nation.
The wonks have already begun the necessary wrestling with the terrifically complex policy formulations in the areas of the economy, health and the environment.
How we need them! But we cannot wait for them.
A friend from Montreal called at about midnight on the day of the election and, in tears, said, “You are a nation of givers. You’re back. You’re a beacon again.”
The chose is not between right and left, but whether will we go deeper.
Robert F. Kennedy, in his speech at the University of Capetown, South Africa, Day of Affirmation, June 6, 1966, said: Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation…Thousands of unknown men and women in Europe resisted the occupation of the Nazis and many died, but all added to the ultimate strength and freedom of their countries. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage such as these that the belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples [to] build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
He concluded with a quote from his slain brother, John F. Kennedy: The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
I happen to like what Isaiah (58:10) says: And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise from obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.
Let us savor this, roll up our sleeves, and let our lights shine, for we each can and must be beacons.