Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama, Grant Park and History

Obama Wins The Presidency Countdown in Grant Park 11/04/2008

Well, I have to comment on election night. I don’t care what your party affiliation is, the night was history-making. However, for me it spurred memories of my hometown. The Grant Park of last week was a place I had been to many, many times. I have seen bagpipe bands march there, I have seen Taste of Chicago, concerts and Venetian Night. I remember weights being strategically placed around the park prior to John Paul IIs visit to make sure the park would not cave into the parking garage below it. However, never have I seen such excitement and such diversity at Grant Park.

It was not always easy to be a white Chicagoan in support of a black candidate in Chicago. During the first election of Harold Washington I was chased down the street because I wore a Harold Washington button. A friend of mine was beat up for wearing one. Our garbage can lids were taken away because they were a gift of the precinct and the precinct supported Jane Byrne. A lot has changed.

I remember the assassination of John Kennedy when I was in fourth grade. Two years later the city erupted in violence with the assassination of Martin Luther King. The city went up in flames and riots. A friend of mine who lived on North Avenue could see the flames south of her and she remembers feeling happy to see tanks and soldiers move down the street. It is indeed sad when you are happy to have an army take control of your city.

My oldest brother-in-law was married during the week of the 68 Democratic Convention. They gave their “Love Feast’ (it was the 60’s!) to the hippies staying in Lincoln Park. That convention nominated a peace candidate and Grant Park was also the focus of the world. However, that time there was a police riot. Not this week.

This week Senator McCain gave one of the most moving concessions speeches I have ever heard. This week Americans whose ancestors came from Europe and Africa and South America and Asia gathered together at the shores of Lake Michigan and listened to an American with roots from around the world give his acceptance speech. This week there was peace, change, sadness for many but there was also hope and honor. This week we showed the world what democracy is suppose to look like. This week I greatly missed my old home town and wished I had been a part of this historic event.

President-Elect Barack Obama in Chicago

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