Proud to be an American

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CommonDreams.org

Proud to be an American

by
Catharine Cooper

Proud to be an American. The words echo in my throat as I say them out loud over and over again. I am once again proud to be an American. My faith has been restored in my country and I look toward the future with anticipation, curiosity and hope.

The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States marked a turning event in my life - in all of our lives. As I watched the telecast of the day's events in Washington, D.C., I found myself alternately exhilarated and filled with tears. The tears came from that place where fear and hope collide, that place where dreams dare to be born and spoken, that place where the heart allows itself to believe.

The election of Barack Obama changes everything. A man of African American descent, raised by a single mother, who climbed from humble means to the highest office in our nation, provides us with a snapshot of living history. It negates the race card. It stares down the stories of underachievers who would cry circumstance as the reason for their defeat. It raises the bar of personal expectations and involvement in our future to a new level.

We will never be color blind. We will always see our differences, but now we can finally learn to embrace them as our strength. Instead of dividing us, we can use them to draw ourselves together. This man - this election - offers us the tools.

We are not only white - but brown, black, yellow and red. We speak many tongues, are of differing heights, and have diverse - and often conflicting - religious and cultural beliefs. We have accents that harken from all corners of the globe. This blending - this melting pot of generations - is what gives us the foundation to rise again and again to greatness. This is America.

Listening to Obama's inaugural address, I was struck by his clarity, by his grasp of what is at hand and at stake, and his unflinching belief that we can tackle these challenges. He did not speak to us as children, but as co-collaborators in our future. He did not ask, as did John Kennedy, "...what we could do for our country", but the sentiment was embedded in his words. He looks to us to uncover solutions, as we look to him for guidance as our President.

The road before us bumpy; the challenges are daunting. But I believe we have what it takes to move beyond the issues that have dragged us down.

On the morning of the Inaugural, I was listening to children speaking on NPR. They were asked what it meant to have Obama as president, and the general tone and theme was that each of them wanted to do more. When asked why, they answered that it was because Obama made them feel like they should - like they could - like they could be more than they had ever imagined.

I have heard carping from friends and family who did not vote for Obama and are not as enthralled as I am with our choice of leaders. In their words, I hear their fears that things will change - and not necessarily in a manner they would chose.

All I can think of in response is that they already have changed. Big chunks of the system are broken. The solutions to the tempest swirling around us cannot be found in old ways of thinking, but in new ideas, new daring, and in challenges to the status quo.

It reminds me in some sense of learning to walk. It wasn't ever easy. We fell down, we got up, and fell down again. But after some time, we established our balance and toddled down the pathways. It's as if we are learning to walk anew. The ground changed, our footing changed, and it is our task to change to navigate the new terrain.

What I uncovered this morning in myself, was a renewed commitment to responsibility - just like those NPR kids. I reminded myself that my community can be stronger, our programs more reflective of our needs, and our involvement deeper. It's time to push aside any fluff, and dig down for substance.

When Obama and Michelle stepped out of their limousine on the journey to the White House, I felt transfixed, as if in a dream. They took hands and together walked a dream that millions have believed would not happen in their lifetime.

I heard myself saying, this is what I've been waiting for, longing for this chance to once again believe. We, the American people, have much to be proud of, and have regained a leader worthy of our respect, our trust, and our support.

Catharine Cooper can be reached at cooper@catharinecooper.com

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