Three weeks ago, I traveled to Boston with my son to meet one of the leading housing foreclosure prevention experts in the country. My community of south Florida is one of the hardest-hit foreclosure regions in the county, and it is my responsibility to help constituents find solutions.
On that brisk New England autumn day, as I stood near Boston's South Station with Kendrick Jr., 11, I hailed a taxi to take us to that meeting. As the taxi approached, the driver narrowed his eyes, glanced in our direction, locked the car doors, and sped off, forcing me to explain to my son what had just transpired. Racism had not disappeared in America.
Less than a mile away, my friend Deval Patrick, the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, sat in the State House.
And hundreds of miles away, my friend Barack Obama, the first African-American presidential candidate to run as a major political party's standard-bearer in the general election, was beginning another grueling campaign day of travel to battleground state after battleground state.
Though I am a U.S. congressman, Deval Patrick is a governor, and Barack Obama is president-elect, the conversation I had with Kendrick Jr. that morning and on other occasions with my daughter, Lauren, 13, is one Deval has had with his daughters, Sarah and Katherine, and Barack has had with his daughters, Malia and Sasha.
No fancy lapel pin identifying our status as elected officials or our efforts as parents to raise intelligent and hard-working children can overshadow the obvious to a person who bears ill will. Parents cannot always protect their children from what ails our world, and sometimes parents themselves are not immune to these ills.
But the realities of yesterday's world are suddenly not the realities of today's, which leaves me hopeful for tomorrow's world. And that reality is now upon us not because of Barack Obama; this campaign was, in the words of the president-elect, bigger than any one candidate—this election was about all of us. And we the people won in this race.
People always ask me what kind of district I represent in Congress. South Florida always reminds many of family vacations, great weather, and plentiful beaches, and they enjoy sharing their Sunshine State experiences with me.
In a geographic sense, I represent 75 percent of Miami-Dade County and 25 percent of Broward County. The district was first represented in Congress by Bill Lehman, then by Mother, Carrie P. Meek, and now by me.
But the truth is that I come from a state and live in a congressional district populated by people of goodwill.
I live alongside African-American grandmothers whose parents were sharecroppers in the Deep South after the Civil War and Jewish-American grandchildren whose parents were survivors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust.
My neighbors are senior citizens and retirees who have fulfilled all that was asked of them to build this country up and college students who will be asked to rebuild this country beginning on Jan. 20, 2009.
Some of us arrived in this country centuries ago, and others arrived days ago from nearby Caribbean islands.
We came from all corners of the world by slave ship and makeshift raft, ocean liner and airplane, and now live together beside one another with one faith's house of worship next door to another faith's house of worship.
Where I live, in truth, looks very much like where most people live and the congressional district that I represent is very similar to the congressional district that any member of Congress represents.
And the country President-elect Barack Obama will lead beginning the afternoon of January 20th is very much like the country President George W. Bush will have led on the morning of January 20th.
What is different is that the campaign themes of change and hope are no longer slogans—they are truths we all are now living. And that is a credit we all share.
Now more than ever, I am hopeful that the conversation I had with my son in Boston three weeks ago is a conversation he will not have with his children.