I am not American. The result of the presidential election therefore, was not within my control. I didn’t get a vote. And until recently, I must admit, I didn’t think the general American public capable of bringing a good man to the presidential election. Following their speeches tonight, my guess is that this year, they brought two good men.
I watched President Obama’s speech in a staff room surrounded by Journalism and PR academics. They viewed his presentation with the calculating eyes of people used to analysing and deconstructing such performances. At one stage when President Obama spoke of his wife, as “my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next first lady” a colleague was muttering “Listen to the cadence of that speech. It’s perfect.” Another whispered “My what an orator.”
I don’t know that it was the cadence that made me cry though. I think perhaps my tears were more about hope than cadence. Hope on the faces of the people in the crowds. Hope in the hearts of people of the world because America finds itself with a young, strong, vibrant leader. Hope in the eyes of President Obama himself as he spoke of his dreams. And imagine the hope in the hearts of African-Americans. To have emerged from slavery and into the presidency. Truly now, it must seem for them, that anything is possible. For them it must feel that the entire world is bigger, brighter and more laden with opportunity than they have ever seen it before.
Then there was John McCain. A fine speech. Perhaps not as perfect. Perhaps not as dynamic. But certainly dignified, respectful and honourable. Such was his speech that he also offered hope. Hope for the cessation of the petty bickering and mudslinging that has typified American politics for so long. Hope that honourable behaviour, even in the face of loss, is possible. Hope that fine human beings do still enter politics.
I think that’s why I cried. Because hope is something that will move people to tears. I read somewhere recently, that there are simple ingredients for happiness “something to do, something to love and something to hope for”. That is precisely what this election has brought the American people.