The Greatest Moment in American History

The people of America have given their final and overwhelming verdict in favor of Barack Obama to act as their President for the next four years. In my view this is a magnificent victory not only for Obama, not only for the people of America, but forces of democracy in all parts of the World.

The great dream of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) outlined initially in his historic speech to the people of Peoria in Illinois on 16 October 1854 and reiterated again in his Second Inaugural address, as American President on 4 March 1865 has become a reality today with the resounding success of Barack Obama.

The words of Abraham Lincoln spoken on 16 October 1854 are worth repeating today:

'Nearly 80 years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal. But now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is 'a sacred right of self-government'. These principles cannot stand together'. Fellow countrymen'Americans South as well as North'shall we make no effort to arrest this? .... In our greedy chase to make profit of the Negro, let us beware lest we 'cancel and tear to pieces' even the white man's charter of freedom. Our Republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us re-purify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the spirit if not the blood of the Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of 'moral right' back upon its existing legal rights and its argument of 'necessity'. Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it, and there let it rest in peace. Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence and with it the practices and policy, which harmonize with it. Let North and South'let all Americans, let all lovers of liberty everywhere'join in the great and good work'.

Again on 4 March 1865, Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural address declared for all time:

'Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away'. With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds'to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations'.

Democracy is both the best and the most difficult form of political organization'the most difficult because it is the best. There can be no democracy unless it is a dynamic democracy. When people in a democratic country cease to participate'to have a place in the sun'then all of them will wither in the darkness of decadence. All of them will become mute, demoralized, lost souls. This is what we see in the most shameless and criminal Indian democracy of today.

Not so in America. Max Lerner said that men have always found it easy to be governed. What is hard is for them to govern themselves. The people of America have shown that they can govern themselves effectively and purposefully. The people of America have acted with great courage, judgment and vision by giving their whole-hearted support to Obama. In this context the beautiful words of H W Beecher become very relevant and significant: 'The real democratic American idea is, not that every man shall be on a level with every other, but that every one shall have liberty, without hindrance, to be what God made him'.

Immediately after his victory, Obama has told the American people: '

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference. It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled ' Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America. It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America. I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead'.

Thus we can see that Obama rose to great heights as a democratic leader. What makes American democracy even more beautiful and sublime is the dignified and responsible manner in which John McCain addressed the American Nation after his electoral defeat. In my view he has risen to Olympian heights as a great Opposition Leader of his country.

McCain has spoken without any petty feelings of prejudice or rancor or ill-will or hatred. Through his historic concession speech, marked by great eloquence and a very high sense of public responsibility, McCain has shown that he is no less patriotic or a devoted public servant of the American people than Obama, in any sense of the word.

'My friends, we have ' we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly. A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love. In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American President is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving. This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight. I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound'.

'A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the Presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now ... Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise. Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans ... I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited'.

Both the speeches of Obama and McCain were extemporaneous. They were not written in advance and then recited or read. I have quoted them both only because they seem to me to represent better than any explanation or definition could do that which is not rhetoric or declamation, nor even sermonizing, but the purest gold of human eloquence, nay, of eloquence almost divine. No wonder Churchill said: 'Rhetoric is fireworks and eloquence is fire'. I have no doubt that both will continue to live forever as among the glories and treasures of mankind.

I would love to conclude with the famous poem of H W Longfellow (1807-1882):

'Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!'


More by :  V. Sundaram

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