Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can

History was made yesterday. In his speech to a Chicago crowd of one hundred thousand people President elect Barak Obama cited the story of a centenarian woman who voted in this American Presidential election. He pointed out the dramatic events and changes that she has witnessed in her lifetime. Much of the focus of the historicity of this election rests on its racial significance and while we will eventually move past this emphasis, we cannot fail to notice what this moment means for African Americans and other ethnic minorities.
Within my own lifetime there have been historic moments in world and North American history. Here a random few. Allied troops stormed Normandy beaches in 1944. On a Montgomery, Alabama bus Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat to a white passenger and unwittingly launched the civil rights movement in 1955. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis of October almost sparked a nuclear war between USSR and the USA. President Kennedy was assassinated 1963. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were also assassinated in the 1960’s. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. The 1970 October Crisis in Quebec and two terrorist kidnappings of government officials by members of the Front de libération du Québec, the subsequent murder of hostage Pierre Laporte and the imposition of the War Measures Act by Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau. In 1971 the Canadian federal government officially adopted a policy of multiculturalism (i.e. French language on documentation including cereal boxes). Richard Nixon resigned as U.S. President in 1974. The death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976. In 1977 Canadian highway signs went metric. In June of 1981 Terry Fox died in the middle of his cross Canada Marathon of Hope. In 1982 Bertha Wilson was the first woman appointed as a Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down existing legislation against abortion as unconstitutional in 1988. In 1989 Heather Erxleben became Canada's first acknowledged female combat soldier, the same year that one-dollar bills were replaced by the "loonie." The Berlin wall came down in 1989. In 1991 the unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into effect. In 1993 Kim Campbell replaced Brian Mulroney as the head of the Progressive Conservatives and became Canada's first woman Prime Minister and in the same year Chretien and Liberals had a landslide victory reducing Progressive Conservatives to two seats. Terrorists topple NYC Twin Towers in 2001. A Tsunami devastates a widespread Indian/Asian region (2005). In 2005 Hurricane Katrina was the costliest hurricane ($80 billion), as well as one of the five deadliest in the history of the United States.
Is the election of Barak Obama a pivotal, even a defining moment in US history and its international relationships? I have the sense that it is. I am concerned for him. Secret Service security will need to be at its best. God must protect him. He won but almost half the electors voted for someone else. Yet the hope inspired by Obama's 'Yes We Can' credo may unite rather than divide. I hope that it can.

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