I visited the Reagan Library with my daughter and her best friend a couple of years ago. Despite my misgivings, my sad memories of the Bush 41-induced recession, and my love for a certain Genesis music video, I went. And I was very moved, because I saw a man who truly loved his country, who wasn't cynical about the work of governing, who believed with his very soul that our nation should be a shining beacon of hope in a turbulent world. (And don't underestimate the allure of having your picture taken on Air Force One, even if it's a decommissioned, grounded, old one. Kinda like an ex-President itself.)
But something happened there that stunned me into silence. We walked into an entryway decorated with portraits of all the U.S. Presidents. "Look at this," I said to my daughter and her friend, "Here's our history."
"Where are the girls?" asked my daughter, immediately. "And why are they all white?" added her friend, who is Asian.
I had no answer. Where ARE the girls? I thought, And WHY are they all white? What can I say that won't put paid to the idea that anyone can work hard enough and be President?
Instead, we all made faces at the portrait of Bush 43 and walked out of the room.
I love looking at Barack Obama's family -- his beautiful wife and kids; photos of him with his mother; his grandparents; his Indonesian stepfather; his sister and her husband, who is Asian, and their tiny daughter. This polyglot family looks like the country I live in, the country I love and cherish because some way, somehow, despite our varying backgrounds, despite the strains in our affection, despite the differences in our temperaments, we've made it work for more than 200 years.
And while I would never vote for a man because of the color of his skin, or vote for a woman simply because she is a woman (no way, no how, no Palin), I am delighted that we have chosen a leader who seems to represent all the very best parts of the American dream. Unfortunately, he is taking the helm of a nation that has been rocked, weakened and stressed, but perhaps this is the golden opportunity we all need, the chance to take a look at our country and ask "How can we make things better?" And to remind ourselves that that the job of leading our nation used to be considered the greatest honor in the land.
On this day, I can breathe a sigh of relief. This day, I can look my daughter in the eye and say "Anyone can be President," and mean it.