Tears and Dreams

I didn't decide on my candidate until late in the game, and even then, I wasn't without reservations. But I admit that my eyes welled up several times as I watched the coverage tonight, maybe not for the reasons you'd imagine.

In the coming days, a thousand people are going to write about what this election means in regards to our nation's past. They're going to talk about where we've been and how we've gotten to this point, this precipice, this unprecedented proof of our desire to be different.

In the coming days, a thousand people are going to write about what this election means in regards to our nation's future. They're going to talk about what's coming, and what we can expect, and what challenges we are going to face and overcome, as we press toward our goal of becoming a shining star among the nations of this world.

But me, I'm going to write about what this election means to the present, to MY present, to my immediate, right-now, I'm-looking-at-it, staring-me-in-the-face shift in thinking.

As I walked through the halls of my high school today, I noticed a palpable excitement in, yes, the entire student body, but most especially in my minority boys.

In the past, these were the young men who would angrily insist that the government meant nothing to them, that their futures were decided when people looked at their skin, that they struggled every day to rise above the expectations put upon them by their family, friends, colleagues, and country.

But in the past few weeks, I've noticed a difference in these students. I've noticed that they hold their heads a little higher. I've noticed that they've buckled down a little harder. I've noticed that they've looked me in the eye, and they've gotten a spark of enthusiasm, and they are talking about their futures because they believe they HAVE futures now.

Today, on Election Day, the overwhelming majority of Obama t-shirts breezed by on the puffed-up chests of African-American teenage boys. "Who are you voting for, Ms. Flower," my students would demand, shoving Barack's face in mine. And while I kept my vote to myself, I gave each of them a mental grin, because their excitement and joy was absolutely contagious.

I'm cynical enough to think that there will be very little actual change in our government, and that promises made during the campaign will pass into oblivion as other pursuits are deemed more important.

It's possible that Barack Obama will leave office without passing even one law, without forging one new alliance, without solving one single economic problem.

But his greatest achievement won't ever reach the newspaper or be broadcast on the news. No, the best thing he's done--the best thing he'll ever do--is give my students HOPE, and in doing so, he gave them a FUTURE.


Jen said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. Well said. Thank you.

beckiwithani said...

I've seen the same thing from the young seventh- and tenth-grade men in my classes. It is inspiring. Thank you for capturing it in words! Beyond the excitement and tears that many of us had on Tuesday night, there is a major and long-term cultural message being sent here.

Teacher said...

...And thus the most important election to date! I noticed this in my first grade classroom as well! I cannot find the words, only tears!

Jim said...
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