It's only now beginning to sink in, and the reality of it is such that I couldn't have expressed yesterday what this means - I really had to experience it.
In retrospect, it almost seems like this had to happen. It couldn't have been any other way. At this perilous moment, when so much is at stake, America simply could not reward the politics of fear, division, and ignorance with a victory. That's what this election means - to me. I won't presume to speak of what it means for race in America, although I can feel the profound shock that our nation has just absorbed - it is a healthy shock, a welcome one. The profundity of it, I think, is best expressed in the faces soaked by tears of joy; the huge crowd of blacks and whites and Asians and Latinos in Chicago cheering and hugging and screaming, looking as unified and as diverse as the America we all dream of, work for, and believe in; the sputtering ineloquence of TV pundits who usually have a sound-byte ready for the cameras, their faces blank as they stared at an event so beautiful, so unprecedented, so amazing that the only honest response is a huge grin and an attempt - however difficult - to convey the emotion that is welling up inside. I can't imagine how many people are looking at their children and grandchildren today, truly convinced for the first time that they too can be America.
This was my first presidential election. I am simply too young to get my head around the enormity of what I saw - and what I was a part of - last night. Maybe there is no one who can really understand what has happened in all of its dimensions - for our global standing, for our moral integrity, for our social fabric, for the new generation of American leaders, for every other element of what this means.
For myself, having followed this race for nearly two years, I can only grasp at what this means for our politics. Here is what I can say about this event: it is not just a political victory. It is a victory for our politics.
In choosing Barack Obama to be our President, we reached out for what was different and difficult - but we did it because we saw potential and brilliance, and we did it out of hope - not fear.
We were told that we should be scared. That we should go with the familiar, even if we know deep down that it is not enough for the challenges we face - because it's safe, because it's predictable, because it's like us. But we chose the unfamiliar, because the risk of not stepping up to this moment was so much greater.
We were told that Barack Obama is not like you and I. We were told that he is different. That he is an elitist. We were told that he is exotic and a celebrity and that he doesn't understand us. We were told that his supporters didn't understand "real America," that we weren't part of the "pro-America" parts of the country. We were told that Obama was a Harvard snob, a pointy-headed professor, a big-city intellectual.
We rejected that. We rejected those politics of fear and division. How would it have been if we had chosen McCain-Palin, if we had endorsed that style of politics, if we had said with our votes, "Yes! I agree that there is a real America and a fake America. I agree that there are pro-America regions and anti-America regions." And, I might add, what's wrong with being a professor? What's wrong with being an intellectual? What's wrong with a man who worked his way up in the world, who was raised by a single mother and his grandparents, who tried hard and made mistakes but who came back from it all -- and made it all the way to Harvard Law? We should celebrate that - and we did.
This election was an incredible moment for America. It was an opportunity to make a statement about our country - to make a statement to our world - about who we are, what we believe in, where we want to go, and who we want to lead us there. It was huge and overwhelming and I still don't think we can even fully understand it. I'm just happy I was here to see it.