2008: Obama elected president
We are better than we know
Nov. 6, 2008
Our coverage of the historic election included an editorial by Editor Pamela White and a question-andanswer piece with presidential history expert William E. Leuchtenburg, a professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Leuchtenburg was asked to compare and contrast Obama with former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including the situations they faced when taking office.
In her article, White reflected on the results of a survey only two years earlier in which the majority of respondents said they didn’t think it was likely that the U.S. would elect an African-American as president.
“After all,” she wrote, “it’s only been 143 years since the 13th Amendment was ratified, finally outlawing slavery, and only 90 years have passed since President Woodrow Wilson conceded to pressure and made a public statement against lynching. Not racism, but lynching.
The struggles of Rosa Parks, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil-rights marchers are relatively recent events, having occurred in the lifetimes of many who cast votes on Nov. 4.
“With that as our history, it was hard to imagine two years ago that Americans would flood polling places to elect an African-American man as president, especially when that man had a weird name like ‘Barack Hussein Obama.’ And yet, last night Barack Hussein Obama was chosen by the American people to be our 44th president.”
White described how her college-aged son canvassed black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, and later that night witnessed firsthand the impact of the outcome. “On Election Night, when Obama was declared the victor, Ben watched an elderly African-American couple hug and kiss and cry and got choked up himself, imagining how long they must have waited for this moment. Then the couple surprised him, turning to him and drawing him — a white boy from Boulder — into their embrace.”
She concluded with the following: “After disappointing the world by seeming to support Bush’s failed policies, America took a step on Nov. 4 toward redeeming itself and living up to its promise as a nation, a promise that has always given people around the world something to believe in. When we fail, we let not only ourselves down, but everyone who cherishes the ideals of freedom and government by and for the people. On Nov. 4, we surprised ourselves and the rest of the world, reminding ourselves and everyone else just how powerful and amazing the American people can be.”