This year’s presidential campaign has brought an unprecedented opportunity to reclaim a sense of decency about the United States. It has replanted the knowledge that hard work and a deep desire for fundamental change can restore hope for countless millions, not just here but worldwide. It has confirmed the reality that we truly make a difference with our choices, our actions, our lives. This message of hope, empowerment, and restoration comes at a time when humanity is facing equally unprecedented challenges: wars, diminishing resources, climate change, economic disaster, and long-standing animosities between ethnic groups and nations that will impact our ability to address these monumental issues. It could not have arrived at a more propitious time.
Perhaps you, like me, remember the days of fellow human beings getting slammed about by water from fire hoses and set upon by ferocious police dogs for wishing no more than to be treated as equal to human beings with white skin, risking their lives in marches and refusing to ride on buses in Montgomery, Alabama, until change truly began to happen. The culture of hate and disenfranchisement that was so prominently exposed in those days has been slowly unraveling in the decades since, making the election of Barack Obama to our nation’s highest office a tangible reality. Racism has not died in the U.S., but it is slowly withering, to the point where the majority of people in our nation now pin their best hope for addressing overwhelmingly challenging problems upon an extraordinary man with black skin. Perhaps you, like me, witnessed the results of election night holding your breath, with tears streaming down your face, awestruck at the enormity of what has been accomplished by so many over so many years.
President-elect Barack Obama knows that the hardest work is still ahead of us. He understands that we will need to unite in facing the enormous challenges of our time—and he has shown us that this can be done, encouraging us with the simple words, "Yes, we can." His election is an amazing antidote to despair.
For me, the greatest antidote to despair is the child who was born more than two millennia ago. Hope was born in a humble stable in Bethlehem, making itself known to the simple and the wisest alike. Jesus did not teach us that our dreams would be realized or that we would be spared from suffering. He taught us how to live with each other and offered an example of loving self-sacrifice that can release us to realize transformed lives and a transformed world. For the ultimate hope brought into the world by Jesus so long ago, and for the renewed hope offered by a very human man in our small portion of human history, I am profoundly grateful.