America is a nation built on inefficiency, and I mean that literally. Our constitution is set up so that it is pretty damn hard to actually accomplish anything. It takes large majorities to pass laws, and the laws have to pass the test of the three branches of our government before they take effect. It is an absolute miracle that we are able to accomplish anything at all. The genius of the system that we have is in the inefficency. Let's face it--if you come across a bear in the woods, you want him to be following a path and climbing over branches and rocks. You want to be able to see where he is going and you want it to take him a long time to get there, so that you can be sure that you are not in his way. You don't want to meet him in an open field where he is unrestrained and hungry, because he is much faster than you and much stronger than you and he is going to ruin your day. Our constitution serves as the rocks and branches that restrain the bear. As long as we stick to the constitution, we may not make as much progress as we could, but we are certainly not going to maul a bunch of innocents. The most shameful times in my country's history, present day very much included, are when someone for some reason decides that the constitution is a hindrance and not a virtue.
In spite of all of this, I come back to the genuine good will of the American people. We're not stupid; a little slow to figure things out sometimes, but not stupid. We know what a mistake it was to elect George W. Bush as president, and because of that, his party lost a national election in a landslide that hasn't been seen since 1984 when Ronald Reagan crushed Walter Mondale. Our good nature has led us to pass civil rights legislation, it has motivated us to have the most liberal immigration laws on the planet. The United States, for all of our ugliness and irrationality, has been in the course of history, a force for good in the world.
Reads the poem by Emma Lazarus, inscribed on a plaque inside the base of the Statue of Liberty (thank you for that, France. I sincerely believe no one in the world understands the power of symbolism like the French). Our power as a nation is built on the refuse of the world; the people that no one else wants. Come, we tell them, work hard, and America is yours, because America is OURS. We have been this way since our inception. Have we always lived up to this ideal in the best way possible? Of course not. Everything we do involves stumbling and falling and taking wrong turns, making mistakes, correcting them, and making them again. But always we have made progress in the end, and always we strive to do so.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Now, after over 200 years, America leads the way again. We have regressed shamefully the last eight years, blinded by emotion. But we have woken up and decided that the way we have been going is not the way we want to go. We have elected, to the highest office in the land, a man who represents by his very existence the power of the American ideal that I so treasure. Barack Hussein Obama is the son of a poor Kenyan and a poor white woman, raised by his grandparents, a mixed race man with a Swahili first and last name and a Muslim middle name, a man who isn't black, who isn't white, who was neither the ancestor of slaves nor the ancestor of slave owners, a man who 200 years ago would have been shunned in every society on the planet, the very same wretched refuse of Lazarus's poem. If he is not a true American, than no such thing exists. And now, this man, in the most unlikely of situations, is the leader of the free world. Finally, the West has a leader who is not an old white guy (giving credit where credit is due; European countries have been electing female leaders for decades, something that American is woefully behind the curve on). Finally, the face of America is not a white face. And the simple fact that the most powerful western country is no longer led by a white person gives me hope that maybe the world can begin to heal. And maybe, after years of throwing the world into conflict, American can lead the world out of the darkness we helped create and into a new world that is better than we could have imagined.