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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dear Mr. President Elect

I woke up this morning and couldn't help but write down my feelings of relief and elation over the election of Barack Obama, but nothing that I said seemed to be anymore relevant than anything that anybody else has noted or written, so, in a moment of loss for words, I turned to my new friend, Charlie Pratt, because I knew he had something profound to say, and sure enough, there it was - just what I wanted to say, only much better than I could have ever expressed.  Thank you, Charlie! 


By Charlie Pratt


Barack Obama Capitol.jpg by you.

Mr. President-Elect,

Welcome to the next four years. You seem ready.

I was never hosed with water for being controversial, and neither were you. I was never beaten with night sticks, and neither were you. I was never threatened, harassed, pushed, spat upon, lynched, or killed. And although it pains me to admit it, I never made headlines or laid shoulder into the cause of social justice by sitting defiantly on a bus, breaking an athletic record, collecting an armful of Grammys, sitting first on the Supreme Court, or rocketing into outer space.

And neither did you.

There is a painfully short list of parallels that I can draw between my life and yours, and it’s the brevity of that list that gives me pause as I watch you speak tonight. l don’t believe in man-made saviors, and I don’t believe that any one man, no matter how well-meaning he might be, can speak for all. Even tonight, you knew that, addressing not only the thousands who were standing in front of you with tears streaming down smiling cheeks, but the thousands elsewhere, in quieter company, sat watching with worried eyes, with caution, unsure of what to feel.

There are many things which my mind, at this moment, can’t comprehend.

But then again, I’m just a white kid that loves to write, grew up in a stable home, in private schools, and without fear. I, even with all those good things at my disposal, do not and most likely will not have the privilege to pull up a seat in the Oval Office, on the business end of the desk that even kings, queens, and prime ministers pay their respects to. You sir, have achieved that, and for that I say well done.

What I do know is that there are times, stretching, painful times, times when people seem most far apart, times when people feel most unlike those that oppose their view. There are times that lead us there, into those places of quivering, electric evolution, those places where everything we knew to be normal was challenged by the collectively abnormal. And those times, as unsure as they may be, are the times that break us from our habits, the times that burn off the dross, the times that separate the wheat from the mountain of chaff that so often weighs good Americans down.

You sir, carry with you the hope of a generation - of two generations - whose voice has largely gone unheard, ignored and, when spoken of, twisted or improperly inflated. I, the aforementioned Caucasian lad, cannot begin to say with any measure of credence that I understand what it means to have a grandfather - or grandmother - who was been denied a meal, a seat, or a restroom because of their skin. Politics be damned, I am glad to say that on this night, regardless of what may come, that I saw it. It was there, for a few moments sir, it was there. I saw a glimpse of a new day, a day which has no itinerary that I can predict, a day which will most likely ask more of me than the previous day, and a day which, in its smallest measure, will narrow the gap of arrogance between myself and those that have the natural audacity to be born to different circumstances than I.

You may screw up, sir. I don’t know yet. You don’t know yet. You may prove yourself to be a worthy and fine addition to the legacy of Presidents. You may silence your detractors, or you may invigorate them. The circumstances of your Presidency may dictate more of your legacy than you’d be willing to allow. These things just aren’t for sure.

USCapital.jpg by you.

Either way, I just want you to know, it’s nice to let it all go for a few moments. It’s nice to not know what lies ahead. It’s nice to not retain the sense that I have it figured out. It’s nice, Mr. President-Elect, to entertain the idea, if only for a moment, that our leader is willing to listen. When I was a boy, I raised my hand so often in class that my teachers regularly skipped over me to listen to the voices of others. I can’t help but think that this is that time. My voice has been heard for so long, it’s time for other voices to have their turn. Surely, whether pachaderm, jackass, or whatever-lies-between, we can agree on some basic principles of kindergarten decorum.

In my life, I’ve enjoyed a long, wondrous time of peace. Our shores are vacation spots, not landing zones. Our borders are boundaries, not fronts. Our wars have been fought elsewhere, and diplomacy has been such that we have kept the peace with nearly all of our fellow nations.

I hope that this peace can continue, so much the better if we can peel the scales of prosperity off our eyes just a bit further. This is the progress things; this is now it happens. It doesn’t happen because of a single election, it happens because of a thousand - a million - things that have come before have clicked into place and set the stage for some small bit of new unfamiliarity that, if it does its work, might very well ignite the powder kegs of habit and release us from the chains of assumption.

Perhaps, Mr. President-Elect, we will never agree on certain matters of politic. Perhaps we cannot meet in the middle on some things. To me that seems fairly normal, like what happens between friends, once they know each other long enough. But those differences certainly aren’t the end of the story. They certainly don’t signal the end of our attempt to be a more perfect union.

WethePeople.jpg by you.

It is merely the beginning, and our attitude is at least as important as our action.

This, for reasons I can’t quite yet describe, feels like a beginning. Hindsight may very well prove us all otherwise, but in this moment, sir, I say that I am proud to be an American. It is not the first time I’ve felt this way, nor will it be the last. It is a perpetual thought, gripped by the memory of those gone before, proven by the blood and flesh of those not now with us, and preserved by those willing to not only look ahead, but to remember what has been.

I do not lament the last eight years, although now that I think of it - my perspective on that period is not for this letter. Those times have passed and these times have come. We just don’t know, Mr. President-elect. We just don’t know. But we do stand, each of us, for the hope of America.

Not of party or politic, but of liberty and justice for all.

God bless America, Mr. President-Elect. Whatever I can do to help.

- Charlie Pratt


As for me, I am as proud as ever to be an American.  I believe Barack Obama will lead this nation down the blessed path of strength and faith again.  I believe he is capable, maybe more than any President before him, to lead this nation with strength, integrity, and respect for every American.  Change begins with us.  With you and with me.  We need to bring back the power of goodness again.

- Susan

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