America took a quantum leap forward by electing Barack Obama the first ethnic minority president. Call it what you want, breaking a glass ceiling or crossing a social barrier, but something very unique happened for all of us.
I understand that Obama did not make race an issue in his campaign, that people voted for him and against him for many reasons other than his ethnicity, that a majority of white voters also elected him and that he is an American that just happens to be African-American. I get all that.
But what I want the rest of America to know is what it meant to a 10-year-old American Indian child last night when I tucked him into bed. All my children have gifts, but my son Redbird has a special gift. He has always had a spiritual intelligence about him way beyond his years. That's why I listen carefully to his prayers. We allowed him to stay up past his bedtime because of the historic significance of the election and then, as usual, either his mom or I tuck him in with a story and a prayer. When it is my turn, I usually tell him our Cherokee tribal stories so he can pass them on to his children and they to theirs.
I thought the highlight of the evening was when I told him through my tears and from my heart for the first time that he could be anything he wants-even President of the United States. That was before we prayed.
Last night after the election results and Obama's acceptance speech, we headed toward his room and I mentioned that it was going to be difficult to top the story he just witnessed. Some of his responses were worth noting. He mentioned that he would be able to share this night with his children and grandchildren, and they would be able to tell this story to theirs. (He gets the effectiveness of narrative.) He commented that Obama wants to change the world to be a better place in the same way I do, but he has more power now. (He understands power.)
And he wanted to pray for the president-elect and his family-so we did. It was during my son's prayer that I realized how a child's simple requests are what is needed from all of us. He prayed for protection for the Obama family and that God would help Obama to get everything done that he could do to make a better world for everyone while he is president. To that, all I could say was Amen.
Rev. Randy Woodley is a Keetoowah Cherokee Indian teacher, lecturer, poet, activist, pastor, and the author of Living in Color: Embracing God's Passion for Diversity (InterVarsity Press). www.eagleswingsministry.com/