By Bobby Vacca
It takes the soul of a poet to capture in a few words the historical significance of how the son of a man who grew up herding goats in a dusty African village has shaken off that dust to become the 44th President of the United States. As rapper Jay-Z so aptly put it, “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so we can all fly.”
As if to remind us all of the ultimate objective of Dr. King’s dream, Synclair Taylor, age six, while waiting for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade to begin, paraphrased the dream. “I have a dream: no white people, no black people, just people,” the boy said.
This report comes alive from inside the gates that open to our nation’s capital. What it took to get there is a miracle. A few days before the inauguration my thoughts drifted to my lady friend, a woman of color, and how Obama has captivated her heart. “I knew from the jump that he’s real,” she told me. “Whenever I reflect on what this means to our nation and our children, I am brought to tears.”
As I appreciated the indomitable spirit of this woman, a thought came to me that in retrospect should have been immediately rejected as “an impossible dream.” But because life has taught me that my faith in miracles must be totally unlimited for miracles to happen, one thought led to another until I had convinced myself that realizing the dream was more than possible; it was inevitable.
And so I dreamed: Wouldn’t it be something if I could score tickets to Barack Obama’s inauguration for my lady friend? Immediately a wave of inspiration washed over me that instead of drowning me in doubt carried me straight through the security gates of the National Mall to experience the inauguration live. I believed in my dream, though I had no clue how it could come to fruition. But then…that’s what faith is all about.
I called a friend with connections. He had just given away his last two tickets. No worries. A deluge of astonishing phone calls and emails later, somehow, by the grace of God, two tickets magically appeared for us in Queens. My lady friend had to pinch herself. “Is this really happening?” she asked me, shaking her head in disbelief.
Tuesday morning at one we boarded a tour bus in Times Square. At six we arrived in Washington, took the Metro, and by eight we stood shivering two blocks from the mall. Squished together like sardines in a giant can, we inched our way closer to pay dirt before the massive crunch of bodies would drown out the tiny sliver of daylight. It was the same story getting out, only more intensely maddening. Someone voiced the obvious question, “What would we do if we had this to do all over again?”
Three hours later we passed through the security gates and hiked our way toward the capital amidst the buzz of deliriously happy people, right on time for the inauguration ceremonies to begin. While my lady friend’s heart welled up with pride when her favorite recording artist, Aretha Franklin, lifted her inspired voice to “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” I kept turning around to marvel at the ocean of people that must have amounted to 10 Woodstock festivals rolled into one. I smiled at the connection.
As my lady friend would say on our drive back to Sag Harbor, “When you want to do something badly enough, you have to be willing to do things you don’t want to do to make your dream come true.”
I have been asking myself what it actually means that Obama ran so we can all fly. What is the indicator that proves this is true? I can only account for what is true for me. I don’t have to wait four years for the evidence. I am not waiting for the unemployment rate to drop, for the economy to thrive, or for the war in Iraq to end to decipher what it means to fly high into the sky of unlimited possibilities.
All I have to do is recapture the image of Barack Obama strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue with that big wide radiant smile and waving to the American people while holding hands with the love of his life. When I study that image, I see two extraordinary people joined as one by the power of their love for each other, their children, and the American people.
Naturally, for some, the jury is still out on Barack Obama. Not for me. I am blessed enough to have caught the vibe emanating from this man’s countenance as he strolled down the street so light on his feet he might as well have been shooting hoops. He would never say it himself; he would probably never even allow himself to think it, so I will say it for him:
I am Barack Obama, and I am just like you. We all have wings to fly as high as we want. I am your proof. I am here, the son of an African goat farmer. I never saw myself as underprivileged. I saw myself as free to dream; and through the power, the clarity, and the unshakeable focus of my own mind, the Red Sea parted. I will do my best to give all of God’s children every opportunity under the sun to flourish. But whether I do or whether I don’t, you already have your wings. Now go fly as high as you like.
Or as Abraham Lincoln more succinctly put it, “…That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”