Annette John-Hall: Nation affirms a belief in the content of Obama's character

PA Obama for America staff, volunteers, and supporters celebrate at the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel.
PA Obama for America staff, volunteers, and supporters celebrate at the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff)
Posted: November 08, 2012

Barack Obama has always said it was never about him. It was about us.

And in the end, it was.

Forget all of the polarization and backbiting. The voter suppression and racist dog whistles. The obsession with polls and the divisive parsing of our nation.

On Tuesday, it was our turn. And we used our single most powerful weapon.

The vote.

Four years ago, I could hardly type the words to express my euphoria when the nation resoundingly placed its future in the hands of its first African American president.

But Tuesday night was different. Relief replaced euphoria. And another kind of disbelief took over.

I never thought I'd see a black president elected in my lifetime. And now the nation has not only reelected him, but also doubled down on faith in his leadership.

For all the talk about the staggering deficit dooming our children and grandchildren, the debt of regression, of not making the country better in all ways - all of us helping to lift each other up - would damage their future even more.

A vote for President Obama meant embracing the world we're in.

Mitt Romney's almost all-white crowds seemed foreign for their lack of diversity, so removed from the coalition of blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, and American Indians - a mirror image of the country - who willed this country forward Tuesday.

That isn't just hope. It's change.

I have to admit, I wasn't sure we'd get there.

The best and the worst

The last four years haven't been easy, and I'm not talking about the economy. While the election of our first black president brought out the best in us, it also stirred the worst.

Never has there been as much vile name-calling and personal disrespect directed at the commander-in-chief. Liar. Noncitizen. Retard. Socialist. Muslim (as if Americans don't practice Islam). Food-stamp president.

Oh, and my favorite, shuck-and-jiver.

And those were just the blatant attacks.

Even one of the nation's most honorable statesman, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, couldn't escape the line of fire, shot down and accused of endorsing the president "because he was black."

Ironically, Obama's otherness most likely opened the door for Romney to nearly be elected the first Mormon president, with little fanfare.

I'm proud of that, too.

Character vote

I'd be lying if I said I don't still feel emotional about a black man - a black family - in the White House, but it's more than that. This time around, President Obama's election wasn't so much about being on the right side of history. It was really about the nation's affirming a belief in the content of his character.

That's powerful.

If his reelection does nothing else, it should reassure us that the hope and change we celebrated four years ago is not just a political catchphrase.

But real progress will happen only if we find a way to bridge our destructive divide and find common ground.

And that's not the president's job.

It's on us.


Contact Annette John-Hall

at 215-854-4986 or Ajohnhall@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Annettejh. Read her blog at www.phillynews.com/bling

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