1. Not counting his years living abroad, the President-elect has lived in Hawaii, California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. The United States is far from the world's only geographically immense nation--Russia, China, Canada, and Brazil likewise cover vast territories. But the United States is the only nation whose citizens' lives regularly reach across the vastness. Ours is not a nation of in-bred communities. Rather, we are a nation of strivers, and our striving regularly carries us across boundaries of all sorts, geographic and otherwise. Obama embodies that spirit.
2. The soon-to-be President is the son of a Kenyan. Where else in the world is it even imaginable that the child of a foreigner would win the nation's highest office? Here, it isn't just imaginable--it happened, and it happened because nearly all Americans are descended from foreigners. Ours is a country founded not on ethnicity but on an idea--and a country that is open to people from all over the world who share that idea.
3. The President-elect is also the son of a single mother who, for a portion of his childhood, was poor enough to qualify for public assistance. Where else in the world is such a rise in station possible in a single generation? Truly, ours is a land of enormous possibility, where no child is bound to live the life his parents lived.
4. Not only does Obama belong to a different race than the majority of Americans, he belongs to a race that, for most of our history, was despised and persecuted by a majority of Americans. That fact does not mean that the ugly history of white racism in this country is over--though the worst of that history IS over, thank God. But that fact does mean that Americans change, grow, evolve. Our worst flaws can be corrected, our most awful wrongs made right. Neither human beings nor the nations to which they belong are perfectible. But part of what defines Americans is the belief that we can do, and be, better.
5. That leads to perhaps the most important quality of all: Americans are self-critical. Were that not so, a politician like Obama--who sees much that he dislikes in the nation's culture, its government, and its posture in the world--could never win a national election. This is a key source of our optimism: we do not seek to return to some golden age, nor do we cling to a glorious past. Americans look to the future. Because we are our own worst critics, we are also the biggest believers in our own potential.
These are marvelous qualities that deserve celebration. No other country in the world shares them. Barack Obama's election reminds us of them. May God bless him, and may God bless America.