Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Finally, so much has been said and written about the meaning of Barack Obama's historic victory, it's hard to know what to add. There have been tears aplenty and celebrations galore. I've gotten beautiful letters from friends describing what it will mean to them to have a functional black family in the White House, to see black children playing soccer and holding tea parties on that lawn. I got a note from a friend who talked about buying a oneZ(ph) with future president on it for a friend's new baby as a novelty item and then realizing it was no longer a joke. She went back to buy two.

I got a letter from a friend working overseas, who got up at 5 a.m. to go to a friend's house to watch election returns with a handful of other Americans. They drank coffee and ate bread and cheese until finally they popped open a bottle of champagne, despite knowing better than most the challenges the new president will face in their part of the world.

And who among us has not heard from elderly and even not-so-elderly relatives sharing that they never thought, never, ever thought that they would see in their lifetimes a black man elected by the people to lead this nation?

Some people, of course, don't want to join the party. Another friend, who owns a frame shop, talked of the nasty responses he got back when he sent a blast email out to clients asking if they wanted framed copies of election newspapers in their city. A few people demanded to be taken off his email list. He said he was happy to oblige.

But for every sore loser, there are other people, people I know who stood in long lines for seven hours to get into a rally, who waited six hours to vote, who attended a political event for the first time in their lives, who sent $25 of not-so-flush(ph) paychecks to the Obama campaign, a public love offering, a tie to their (unintelligible) of better world in this lifetime.

Yes, this is something special, and clearly, Barack Obama is a special person to have sparked this moment. I think it's important to stop and celebrate special people and moments because surely the difficult times are coming. Indeed, for many, they are already here, and those moments will cause us to stop in our tracks and take notice.

But can I just tell you? At some point I hope it all stops being so special. I hope that people get used to the idea that a lot of black men and Latino men and Asian and Native American men work hard, are smart, love their kids and can stick to one woman; that a lot of black kids - just like any other kids - speak well, study hard and plead with their parents for a new puppy; that people whose names end in a vowel or whose parents came from somewhere else can be as American as anyone; that you can play basketball and use big words and eat brown rice and listen to hip-hop and still keep small-town America and people who work with their hands and hunt and fish for fun close to your heart and in your mind.

I hope it means that you can express doubts about your country sometime and still be understood to be a patriot. I hope it means that people start to see that you don't have to be some kind of narcissistic nut to want to be in public life or some kind of weirdo to give up a big-bucks job to try to make a difference in other people's lives, that normal people - ones without either some angry demon or a trust fund - can dream a big dream and actually see it come true.

President-elect Obama is at the center of a movement. He'll need every one of his gifts and then some to address the challenges that face the country. But I think the greatest measure of his success will be if and when we can come to see that in some ways, he's not so special after all.

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Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues