Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Word of the Day: Chicago

Chicago.

The City that Works. Urbs in Horto. City in a Garden. City of Broad Shoulders.

A city with a complex relationship to race.

A city that Martin Luther King, Jr. visited in 1966 in an attempt to bring the civil rights movement north.

A city where, during that same visit, Dr. King was hit by a brick thrown by angry whites during a march through Marquette Park.

"I've been in many demonstrations all across the South," said King after the march in Chicago. "But I can say that I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and hate-filled as I've seen in Chicago. I think the people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate."

Last night, in a Chicago park that had been a key battlefield during the 1968 Democratic convention, an enormous crowd gathered to witness history. White people. Black people. People of all ethnicities came to Grant Park to see Barack Obama.

They didn't come to hate. They didn't come to throw bricks. They came to celebrate.

Last night, a crowd gathered in Chicago and the world watched. And last night, when the whole world was watching, they looked to Chicago to see a black man stride onto the global stage as president-elect of the United States.

That such an event could happen in such a city exemplifies not just the "enduring power of our ideals." It showcases our ability to transform hatred into acceptance as we strive to achieve that "more perfect union" first described by our founding fathers.

We are fortunate to witness history in the making, fortunate to climb closer to the mountaintop, fortunate to live in a country that continually reinvents itself using blueprints drawn up more than 200 years ago.

"Out of many, we are one."
– Barack Obama to the crowd at Grant Park, November 4, 2008

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