On election night, I was in a packed concert hall in Brooklyn, every single one of us nervous and excited, watching a gigantic screen tuned to CNN. When the polls closed on the West Coast, and CNN flashed the words "Barack Obama elected president," the room just exploded. Tupac's "California Love" blasted from the speakers, twentysomethings jumped on stage and danced like crazy in front of a screenful of talking heads, and the rest of us jumped up and down shouting in absolute jubilation. Then CNN went live to people celebrating in the streets in Times Square, Harlem, Chicago, Kenya, Berlin -- literally, we were all celebrating together.
During Obama's acceptance speech, I wiped tears off my cheeks, but they kept coming. Over the next few days, I heard friends and media asking, Okay, so what happens next? What's Obama going to do for us now that we've elected him? What if he doesn't live up to all his promises? I see it a little differently: We have a huge promise to live up to. Obama inspired a huge shift in what's possible. He did what we're always talking about here at HumanKind: He talked so much about hope and connection and possibility that almost everyone who heard him started believing in it, and then we all started living like we believe it. And then in the ultimate show of commitment, we elected him president. Not a day goes by now that I don't hear someone saying, with a smile or a laugh, "Yes, we can."
By electing for Obama, WE made a promise. While we all have high expectations of Obama, we now also have much higher expectations of ourselves. It's scary to think Obama might falter, or might disappoint us in some way. But I think what's really scaring us is the fear that we might falter in our own promise, in our commitment to hope and change. We're human. We probably will falter. But we will get up faster and with more optimism than ever. That's a change Obama has given us already. And from now on it's not about what he'll do for us next -- it's about what we will do with all the hope and confidence and joy he inspired in us.
Yes, WE can.