To some, it may have been just political showmanship, but what a show it was.

As I watched Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, I thought about how much this would have meant to my grandparents, to my late father, and what it could mean for my children and grandchildren.

45 years ago, it was still just a dream.

I wish Emmett Till could have grown up to see this.

Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley (the four victims of the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963) would have been about my age. I wish we could have watched this together.

Not that having Black elected officials has resolved the problems of the African American community, but having the opportunity to become an elected official and the highest one in the land, is a far cry from being counted 3/5 (or non)human.

Some say it’s been an amazingly short period—a lifetime. Others, with a more historical view, think it’s been an unbearably long time coming. Long or short, it is a powerful moment because even symbols matter. Sometimes, the symbols matter more than the reality because they can be used, for better or worse, to change reality.

I do know this: Something is very different in the faces and the attitudes of many of the young people around me, particularly the Black males. There is a level of energy and a hopefulness among them that I have not seen for almost 40 years.

And my soul is glad.

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