President-Elect Barack Obama: He Was the One We Were Waiting For

Recalling Selma and Mandela, the U.S. achieves its potential, Howard University’s Alton Pollard writes.

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"Change we can believe in."  Whatever else may be said, President-elect Barack Obama is not a prophet, savior, or messianic figure. As Michelle Obama has noted, her husband is a mortal with all the failings and inconsistencies of the rest of us. Thankfully, the divine mantle still rests with God alone. Nevertheless, Obama is a deeply perceptive, progressive, intelligent and pragmatic political leader. In his person and presence he represents the promise of America's past and future become present, a complex living symbol of radically democratic inclusion and hope. With his election to our nation's highest office a new era in the meaning and making of the United States of America can at last begin. In his administration a linkage of our public policy with the nonpowerful peoples of the world is potential once again. In his presidency the economic greening of the nation and the greening of our earth may be high priority. During his tenure, changes to healthcare, education, job creation, the legal system, and diplomacy may affirm human dignity and worth. In his person is a profound and persuasive reminder to give emphatic recognition to racial, cultural, distressed, and dispossessed others. This is a rare event, not simply the historic election, but the global identification with our new president.

"Yes we can." The voting is over, the election has passed, and our work as a nation has only just begun. If our new president is to succeed in his task we must do due diligence in ours. The civil rights hero Ella Baker was right; no leader is capable of doing for us what we will not do for ourselves. In this election we have learned a little bit more about the truth of ourselves and each other. An informed and inspired electorate, the time has now come for us to bear witness to our glorious promise, lived day by day. As citizens, we may even be witnessing the winds of God blowing across the earth. "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We the people celebrate on this day, President Barack Obama.

Alton B. Pollard III is Dean and Professor of Religion and Culture at Howard University School of Divinity.

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