Life can alert us to singular moments of knowing; crystal clear and deeply understood by heart and soul that coalesce into ideals or deeply treasured beliefs.
I lived my adult life politically apathetic in Washington, DC in response to the wreckage of the Bush administration. When the Iowa State Caucus nominated Senator Barack Obama as America’s first viable African-American Presidential nominee, hope caught my attention.
Not since John F. Kennedy appealed for service and Martin Luther King Jr. heralded his dream, had I hoped for a change in America’s fundamental politics. Compelled to learn if the upcoming South Carolina primary election would sustain that possibility, I made travel plans to observe what would become American history.
The morning of January 26, 2008 I volunteered at a campaign field headquarters outside Columbia, SC. One in a row of non-descript mostly vacant spaces it was built next to the local Juvenile Detention Center. Canvassing a small, economically disenfranchised neighborhood of 200 or so homes, we knocked on each door reminding the residents that today was voting day. They answered pride-filled that they’d already voted or would vote. What powerful gifts their heartfelt words unknowingly bestowed upon me to share with others.
That afternoon our inspired Supervisor promised to hold entry tickets for us at the Convention.
Arriving at the Convention Center I discovered thousands of people forming two lines: non-ticket holders and ticket holders. Without my ticket I cautiously navigated my way to the front of the non-ticket holder line. Peering through glass doors past several security guards I spotted our Field Supervisor inside the hallway. I waved for an eternity until she noticed me, motioned me in, and gave me my ticket. That got my attention.
Senator Obama spoke to the enormous crowd commending the work everyone had accomplished that day…
“I saw what America is and I believe in what this country can be. That is the country I see.”
That “Yes We Can” speech provided us with a substantive hope to South Carolina’s resounding 57% – 27% vote favoring him. He finished his victory speech to thunderous applause and began his meet-and-greet walk shaking hands of a fortunate few. I saw I could be one of them. Pausing in front of me, he caught my eye, grasped and shook my hand, and smiled. That smile emboldened this hope from a glimmer into a moment of knowing.
Single events that seemed haphazard coincidences lead magnetically from one to the next, culminating in a single “moment of knowing.”
I was now engaged in an American political conversation that could get through the mystery of disagreement arriving with much better understood qualifications at “yes.” I saw an ideology respecting each person’s individual truth by expanding our own definitive capacities. I left South Carolina aboard a sturdy vessel, floating atop a sea of human ideals and possibilities, carried on the waves of a new vision for America. A vision inspired by Barack Obama that emerged from a memory stirred by hope.
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