I rode with Obama on Amtrak yesterday-- all the way from Philly to Washington. My body was planted in front of my TV, but my mind and my spirit were riding the Amtrak train. People of all sorts lined the route, waving, smiling, laughing as the train went by. The camera recorded them all, but the ones that moved me most were the faces of color.
The entire African-American experience was synthesized in the wave of a hand, the flash of a smile. The joy, hope and pride were palpable, along with the legacy of pain and suffering. All along the way, at scheduled stops and lining the tracks, the crowd was a polyglot patchwork of the American dream--a racial rainbow of my countrymen cheering on our hope for tomorrow. I felt my oneness with them come right through the TV screen.
The cameras took me inside the train and recorded the nation's first African-American President, a man who is himself a powerful symbol of America. Barack Obama is all of us. He is a man of color who spent nine months in the womb of a white woman. On his father's side he is a symbol of the immigrant experience. On his mother's, the values of the heartland. He is the personification of the founding fathers dream of an "aristocracy of merit". He was not born to wealth and privilege. He has no powerful family connections. He is living proof that in America, any child, of any race or creed, can dream of growing up to become President.
Something profound happened on that train yesterday as it retraced the route Lincoln took to his inauguration in 1861. An ancient American wound inflicted by the enslaving of one race by another began to heal. Barack Obama turned black and white into red,white, and blue. Riding on Amtrak with Obama made me proud to be an American for the first time in quite a while.