If you are like me, you shed a few tears of joy late Election Night. Despite America’s (justifiable) fears about what the future may bring, President Barack Obama will continue to lead us forward for a second term.
Despite the rancor, deceit and suppression hurled against this very good man who has guided our nation during the past four years, more Americans than not decided that President Obama is the person we can trust to hold us together through the storms that our nation must now confront and overcome.
This brilliant and caring Black Man with an unusual name and an unusually beautiful family has now been elected president of our United States of America twice. Our tears on Election Night were the manifestation of a diverse nation’s determination–and our hope.
The power of love and strong minds has allowed us, once again, to triumph over the forces of fear. We must not forget to give thanks to the source of those gifts.
In addition to thanking our Creator, we must never forget those who lifted us up on our journey.
We shall not forget the wizened seniors, holding each other upright as they trudged through the rain in Virginia and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and here in Maryland. Once again, they reaffirmed the strength of a truly great generation.
We shall not forget our young people, who first earned their well-deserved mantle as America’s “Democracy Generation” in the snows and sleet of Iowa four years past, and who, once again, made their parents proud of them this year.
Nor, as our president gratefully acknowledged, shall we ever forget the Rainbow Coalition that, once again, restored our faith in the greatest and most blessed nation on earth.
Historically, the diversity of the coalition that once again elected Barack Obama as our president is as important as President Obama’s victory, perhaps more so.
There will be those who will point out that our president received only 41 percent of the Caucasian vote. More significantly, however, the millions upon millions of White voters who continue to support President Obama and our progressive vision for America constitute a huge voting bloc that is forward-thinking, inclusive, compassionate and economically critical for our cause.
We know that, whatever our differing ethnic heritages may be, America’s working families can create better lives only by forging an even stronger and long-lasting coalition.
For now, we can take some comfort in the knowledge that the American majority has spoken.
The grand bargain that will balance our national books must include both a more efficient federal government and truly shared opportunity and sacrifice.
Minorities in a free-enterprise society simply cannot afford to fight each other for subsistence-level jobs. However, Americans can join together to support the public policies that will create good jobs.
A consumer-driven economy requires that working families earn a living wage so that we can afford to purchase the improved goods and necessary services that America can provide.
Equally important for our national prosperity, all Americans must have access to affordable education. No society in history has succeeded through ignorance, and ours is no exception to that rule.
Furthermore, as the hundreds of millions of Americans compete internationally against the billions of equally capable and hard working people throughout our increasingly close-knit world, immigration to America by highly motivated human beings is good for us, not bad.
Our immigration laws should reflect this reality. The growing diversity of America is our strength, not our weakness. It is America’s promise, not our problem.
The task for government in the days and years to come is to fashion the practical and moral application of these realities.
This is why our emotions now must be driven by hope and determination, as well as by gratitude.
Ours is the realized vision of the abolitionist poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, nearly 150 years ago:
“O black boy of Atlanta!” (Whitter penned in 1868)
But half was spoken;
The slave’s chains and the master’s alike are broken;”
“The one curse of the races held both in tether;
They are rising – all are rising –
the black and white together.”
In 2012, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and progressive European Americans have joined us in building the shared political and social destiny that 19th century visionaries like the Quaker, J.G.Whittier, foresaw.
For two presidential elections in succession, we have witnessed the strength of these bonds. Now, we must apply that strength and unity as we address the civil rights challenges of our time.
Our tears of joy are far too valuable to waste.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives