As the posted electoral numbers climbed towards 270 on Tuesday night, a strange thing happened. People called faraway family members, wanting to bond with them. It reminded me of the moon landing when families wanted somehow to be together at this historic moment.
The polls had said Obama was going to win, but who believes the polls. Suddenly there was a new reality. During the campaign it had been commonplace to say that race was not a factor, that Obama was transcending race, that this was a post-racial era.
But in truth it was all about race, not in the "Goddamn America" of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but in the God Bless America of Barack Obama. This was the America that made the Rev. Jesse Jackson cry, almost in disbelief that this milestone had come.
One could look back on the road that had been traveled. President Truman integrated the armed forces and President Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock to enforce integration at Central High School. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and then the Voting Rights Act. President Reagan named General Colin Powell as his national security advisor, later to be secretary of state. And President Bush appointed Condoleeza Rice as his secretary of state.
We all knew that someday there would be an African-American in the Oval Office, but we didn't know when. And when it happened, suddenly America was a changed place. Black people displayed a new pride, and white managers greeted black employees with a new deference. It had taken a long time for "all men are created equal" to reach its ultimate reality in the highest office in the land.
Soon we will begin to consider what the 44th president will do about the financial crisis, about the environmental crisis, about our exposed positions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But for now just let it sink in. An African-American president of the United States of America.