Obama: The Power of a Precedent
I live in a small but proud neighborhood in Saint Paul, called Rondo. In the early 1960s, it was a vibrant, tight-knit African-American neighborhood, a place where people say you could leave your doors open at night-a place where your neighbors were truly family. But in the mid-1960s came the building of Interstate 94 which broke Rondo almost exactly in half. One neighbor who remembers it says the interstate marked the day when "the music stopped in Rondo." Since then the people of my neighborhood, still primarily African American, have been standing up to overwhelming poverty, prostitution, addictions, abuse, and violence.
Regardless of our political affiliations, we all have to agree Nov. 4th marked a significant moment for African Americans (and for women, of course, through the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president). On that night I listened to the speech of our first African-American president-elect, Barack Obama, and drove home on Interstate 94. As I reached the overpass that indicates the entrance into Rondo, I saw an enormous banner with the words "Yes We Can." And I was overcome with emotion.
I thought of the trash in our streets, the marijuana I frequently smell in my apartment building, the sex shop the neighborhood children walk by every day on their way to school. And yet that night was a night for hope.
I bring up this story not to make a political point or to endorse a candidate but to reflect on the power of a precedent. For my neighbors, an African-American president sets an attainable standard for their own futures and the future of our country. My friend who lives a few apartments down from me can now say to her daughter, "See? It has happened in the past, so it means it can happen again in the future." And not only does it allow us to hope for what has already been, but also for something even better. "See? If we can have a president like us, you could be anything you imagine."
As Christians, we have the ultimate precedent-the cross, which reached up to God and out to all of humanity, making reconciliation with our Creator and with each other possible. God made the impossible