GREGORY ALLEN HOWARD
THE GREATEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE

November 4, 2008, Election Night

I never thought it would happen—not in my lifetime. Not knowing what I know about America; the history of America.

As I sat in that restaurant waiting, watching, there was a sense of dread. So much has gone wrong for us in this country. Surely, the forces of evil would figure out a way to prevail, and our prince would fall. I was hoping for the best, but girding myself for the worst. And then one state, then another, Virginia, the seat of the confederacy fell into his column.

I called my mother and said, “It’s over.” She didn’t believe me. But I knew it was over then. I had lived in Virginia; I was born in Virginia. Virginia was the seat of the Confederacy. Half that state still gets moist over Confederate flag. If he won there, it was over. And sure enough 10 minutes later they called it for him.

Cheering. Tears. Hugs. Man. It was something.

And like other older people and fellow students of history, I thought back on all those millions that went before, mostly nameless, but some prominent. And my first thought was about the musings of a dear friend who spoke about those first slaves snatched from mother Africa 400 years ago. That slave snatched from his family, shackled and put into the belly of ship--ripped away never to see home again. How many tears did he shed? And upon landing here in America and made a slave, he thought: my life is over. He saw his children turned into slaves, then his grandchildren. He died thinking it would always be like that for his kin and his kind in this new strange land.

Not tonight. Oh hell no! For tonight a black man became the most powerful man on earth.

Malcolm X said if they could ever drain the Atlantic Ocean, it would be filled with the skeletons of millions who died in the crossing. Tonight they live. And every atrocity visited upon our people, all the blood, and broken bones, and stretched necks, the beatings, murders, injustice of every stripe was healed tonight. And all the lions and the lionesses of our long struggle for humanity: Douglass, Tubman, DuBois, Evers, Hammer, Garvey, Houston, Marshall, Ali, Lewis, King are rejoicing.

And every black mother who has ever looked in the eyes of her son or daughter who came home, as I did, at ten years old and said, “I wanna be president one day;” only to be met with an unconvincing nod, an eye roll, or the exhale of exasperation for an impossible dream, tonight those mothers can say, “Well, maybe you could be.”

Before this night, the greatest moment of my life was the night that Ali beat George Foreman, “Rumble In the Jungle.” That night I knew I would prevail in life as man, as a black man. That night has guided me with power and authority from my youth to today.

But this is the topper. It’s not just that he won, but how he did it—with cool. How could he be so cool? I was worried every night. But somehow this young man is grounded in the black experience, inexplicably; he has drawn strength from it, even though he wasn’t raised around it. He has somehow channeled all those leaders from times past and distilled all their hopes and dreams into this sang froid mixture of mellow optimism. He never hit back with anger, while being attacked every minute of this campaign. Some pundits took his calmness for weakness. No, he is steel.

He had this faith in the American people. He knew that underneath there was something he could reach in them; connect with them. He spoke to the better angels of their nature. And he did it in fine fashion. He brilliantly used the Internet, like no one before him. In fact, McCain lost largely in cyberspace, which in the future will decide every national election. He embraced the net and tore up that old man and that witch with it.

He outsmarted them. Out maneuvered them. Out talked them. Out thought them. “In a battle of wits, they were unarmed.”

Whether you are religious or merely spiritual, you would have to say, the hand of God played a part in this election. It was the perfect storm of a weak candidate not embraced by a fractured party, his pick of pea-brained hockey heifer, the wasted time mudslinging at a Teflon man, public finance (never again), a theme less, issueless, rudderless campaign, alignment with the most unpopular President in history, and the financial meltdown. If all that isn’t the hand of God, then I don’t know what is.

To be President of this great country, the first thing one has to do is run a great campaign. If you can’t handle this first group of people that you hire and manage, how the hell are you going to manage the country. And this was the first billion-dollar campaign. McCain destroyed himself because he couldn’t properly manage his own campaign.

But our prince could and did, all the while being the coolest cat in America. And in one night, if you look at the world reaction, you realize that we are no longer the ugly American. This new, beautiful mocha face has instantly reformatted what America looks like to the world. And the world likes what it sees. He’s cooled out the world, man! As my Argentine neighbor said, “The world needs for America to be strong and good".

Tonight we are that.

The assassination of JFK snatched the heart out of America. Stole the hope of a nation. Tonight we reclaimed out hope. Our prince has brought light to a darkened land-- a beacon of hope, a beam of change. Hail, hail President Barack Hussein Obama.

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