When my parents were born, Brown v. Board of Education had been decided only three years ago, and the Civil Rights Act was seven years away. The Voting Rights Act was eight years away.
Four years ago, I sat in the dining room playing poker with my friends while an obscure Illinois politician with a funny name gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention. "Hey," my dad called from the family room. "You should come see this speech. It's really something." I kept playing poker.
Over the last 19 months, Barack Obama has been campaigning for President. America has learned a lot about him - and a lot about itself. I wanted to confirm the length of his campaign, so I typed "Barack Obama candidacy" into Google. The third result - ranked above Obama news pages from MSNBC and CBS, ranked above Andrew Sullivan's "Why Obama Matters" piece in The Atlantic Monthly, ranked above the Boston Herald's page detailing Obama's platform, read, "Barack Hussein Obama: Affirmative-Action, Negro-Muslim President."
But I voted today.
I voted for a candidate who is fiercely intelligent and refreshingly curious. I voted for a candidate who values cooperation over antagonism. I voted for a candidate who isn't interested in fighting the old culture wars, who treats Americans like adults, who carried himself with dignity while his detractors became more and more vicious.
America faces incredible problems, and no president can solve them all. But we have no chance of making progress in this country if we carry on as we have for the last eight years. If you had told me a year ago that I'd feel this way about John McCain a week before the election, I would have said you were crazy. But I never saw this campaign coming - and the ugliness, shortsightedness, superficiality, dishonesty, and stupidity of it has shocked me.
But I still get the last word, and I voted today.
This is my first Presidential Election. I don't feel good about American politics very often, but today is different. Because I voted today, and despite everything, I know that's progress.