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After casting her ballot for Barack Obama, Amanda Jones said simply, “I feel good about voting for him.”
Ms. Jones, who lives in a town just south of Austin, Texas, is African-American, and what gives her vote and comment some historic punch is that she’s 109 years old. She’s come a long way. Her father was a slave, and her mother was born right after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. She lived through Jim Crow, shameful segregation, the poll tax – and, now, at last, she got to vote for Barack Obama! The change fills her with joy, she says.
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Me, too. Not that Obama is the answer to all of our country’s woes, not by any means. I know that I’ll have plenty to say about him later, but – come on, let’s wallow in the moment, let’s greet the historic symbolism of his election with all the glee it deserves, and let’s take energy from the hope that he presents to us.
I’m not just talking about the racial breakthrough that he symbolizes, but also the long, incremental, and steady advance of progressive ideals and ideas pushed by generations of Americans. So many people over so many years worked so hard, enduring so many ups and downs, to get to this day, when real change does seem possible.
Obama is part of a progressive continuum that flows from the revolutionary beginnings of America’s democratic experiment right through the young, innovative community of netroots activists who gave his campaign such vibrancy.
The thing we can celebrate on Inaugural Day is not solely that Obama is going into the Oval Office, but that We The People will carry our historic spirit of progressive activism inside with him. As Amanda Jones knows, we have made progress as a people – and we’ll make more, as long as uncelebrated legions of good people, like you, just keep pushing.
“Slave descendant’s milestone: at 109, a vote for Obama,” Austin American Statesman, October 27, 2008.