People from around the world held their breath this week as we watched the American election unfold. In the end, 75 million votes were cast for Joe Biden and 71 million for current president Donald Trump. Biden won the electoral college and was named the president-elect. Along with his running mate, Kamala Harris, as vice president-elect. Biden received more votes than any presidential candidate in the history of the country.
That wasn’t the only history made. Joe was vice president for the first Black US president in history, Barack Obama. Now Joe will be president with the first female, first Black and first South Asian American vice president, Kamala Harris.
Joe was a kid from Scranton who has been through something no parent would ever want to fathom. Losing a child. And that happened to him twice. His wife and daughter were killed in a car accident when he first became a senator at age 29, and then years later his son Beau, a lawyer and soldier who fought in Iraq, died of brain cancer. I can only imagine the empathy this brought him when it comes to understanding suffering. I’m sure he will bring that into his administration as well.
I saw a video last night where Biden read the words of Irish poet Seamus Heaney. He read, “History says don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme.”
Hope and history rhyme. There are times in history when a leader did something that changed things forever and gave millions hope. FDR’s New Deal helped people recover from the depression. JFK’s New Frontier brought social reforms and space exploration. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation brought an end to slavery.
What will be the legacy of the new team in the White House?
There are a lot of folks who voted the other way this time around and those chasms will need to be crossed. As we move forward, my hope is that women, people of colour, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and all Americans, no matter their faith or party affiliation, will find support, justice, opportunity, understanding and love in their leadership and in their communities.
As Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari said, “All the big heroes of history, almost all of them, are fictional entities that exist only in our imagination, only in the stories that we create. Nations, gods, money, corporations, states, the only place they exist is in the stories that we invent and tell. They are not physical or biological realities. Again, the United States or Israel, the only place it exists is in the story that millions of people believe.”
That made me think of when U2’s Bono said, “America is more than just a country. It’s an idea.”
An idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. An idea that changed the world when it began hundreds of years ago. We are all watching to see what the idea of America brings us next.