Wednesday, November 5, 2008
It’s about 2:00 a.m., at the end of election night in America, and Washington DC is ebullient. Yes, you read that right – ebullient, jubilant, and any number of similar adjectives. DC is a suit-wearing city, a place that’s very rarely anything but staid, predictable, and sober, but tonight that’s all changed – at least for a few hours. People spontaneously poured out onto the streets when the major television networks declared that Obama had won the election, jumping, shouting, high-five-ing, singing. People started driving through the streets blaring their horns and hanging out of windows and sunroofs, waving flags, banners, scarves, or just their arms, yelling things like “Yes we can!” or “It’s our turn!”
I stayed in to watch the speeches – both McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s victory speech – and I figured I would just go to bed when they were done. That didn’t happen. I ended up putting on a coat, grabbing my room key, my phone, and a few “just in case” dollars, and heading out to see what all the racket was about. I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue from my hotel, ending up in the pedestrian plaza outside the White House. People had brought their dogs, their young children, their boyfriends or girlfriends. They had drums, trumpets, cameras and mobile phones. Walking past more than one person on the phone, I noticed there were tears on faces and great big smiles on lips as they described the scene to family or friends at home. People were singing songs like “Our House,” “Hey Hey Hey Goodbye,” and “We Have Overcome” (the latter to the tune of “We Shall Overcome”). They were holding up cardboard cutouts of Obama and taking photos of themselves with the cutouts with the White House behind them.
On the streets and at the white house, it was a whole big crowd of varied ages, races, genders, and economic statuses, who were all simply overcome by excitement. This city is thrilled, and there’s a great sense of pride. It’s really remarkable – and inspiring.