It is truly remarkable how far we have come as a nation in the past two years. When I reflect upon my part in the historic events that led to the election and inauguration of the first black president in our nation’s history it fills me with joy to know that I was there when it all began (for me) one late October night in 2006. Myself, and three others went into Seattle (on a school night!) to attempt to scalp tickets to see Barack Obama, a mostly unknown junior senator from Illinois give a talk about his book and perhaps have a chance for him to sign a book of ours. We were incredibly lucky to even get four tickets out of the line, and to get them at face value (five dollars). We made friends with people that were close to the front of the line and waited to get in with them. Already the spirit of togetherness was overtaking common citizens! We sat in the first row allowed for those with our sort of ticket. Then one of us asked if we could move all the way to the front, which we were allowed to do. Watching him enter from my left side was crazy and even then it blew my mind. His talk touched upon the fundamentals that he would eventually utilise to run for President. I was terribly impressed by how (mostly) non-partisan he was. It was truly refreshing. Afterward we all waited patiently for our group to be called to have our books signed. One of us had bought an extra book for our AP Government professor which was my ticket into the line. Eventually it was my turn to walk up and get the book signed. I handed him my book and he signed it and then I asked him, “I don’t know if this is kosher but could you sign my ticket stub?” He smiled and said yes and I shook his hand. We left Benaroya Hall walking on air at the experience. Looking back upon it now it seems like it was in a different time.
I always thought from then on that he was the right man for the job. I was just waiting on everyone else to realise what I already had. Then the movement began slowly and showed itself in Iowa, in South Carolina, and so on and so forth. We stand here today perched on the precipice of the kind of history that our generation has never been witness to. Yes, we did watch in horror as the towers fell in smoke and ash under the pressure of terrorism and hate. Yes, we did watch our nation go to war. Yes, we did watch our economy sink to depths none of us could have imagined. Yes, we were told our opinions did not matter. This however, is the kind of moment that will forever live in all our memories as one that is a happy memory, one that reminds us that even though we have witnessed and grown up during some of the toughest times this country has ever faced, we can and did rise up and send a message to the world that we are a generation of change. That we are a generation that refuses to allow others to tell us what we cannot achieve. With that sort of resolve, inspired by a man with a funny name and big ears, we can achieve anything.
And now, we turn ourselves to bear witness to the day Martin Luther King dreamed of when he made his address on the Lincoln Memorial over 40 years ago. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” That day, is January 20, 2009. Let us enjoy it.