Every generation gets a few moments to witness history – the destruction of the World Trade Center, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall – some filled with trepidation and some with promise.

Watching interviews on the news Wednesday morning with African Americans in Chicago’s Grant Park, where Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech Tuesday night, the feeling was inescapable that for a new generation this was one of those moments.

Another wall had fallen. The racial barrier was nothing anyone could take a sledgehammer to. It had rendered empty the phrase “land of opportunity,” because for some, those opportunities were unattainable, not as a measure of their ability, but because of the color of their skin.

The oratorical ability that helped Obama break through that barrier was once again on display Tuesday night in front of a crowd as diverse as the country he will soon lead. But what was perhaps more remarkable was the speech delivered by his opponent, Sen. John McCain, who displayed the candor, humility and wisdom that are his hallmarks and were all too often missing from his campaign. Despite the tremendous disappointment he must have been feeling, it was clear he understood his part in history.

“I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Sen. Obama believes that, too,” he said. “But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.”

Although 150 years or even 50 years might seem like an eternity to some of the young voters who came out to support Barack Obama Tuesday, they are but a blink in the eye of history. It has been 150 years since Obama could have been owned as a slave, and 50 years since civil rights workers were beaten and murdered for registering black voters.

But, for Obama and millions of others, the time has come. An African American has been elected to the highest office, one that has been held by only white men.

This milestone should not be taken as an indication that the struggle is over, but as an indication that the fight is worth fighting. And, although Tuesday was clearly a victory for Democrats, people of all parties and all races ought to recognize Obama’s victory as evidence we are moving toward a better society, even if that progress is intangible most of the time. At a time when our economy is nearly in ruins and wars all over the world are showing no signs of abating, we can perhaps take comfort in that.

We need to believe in something, even if it’s only for a moment.

Brendan Moran, editor

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