Today is independence day; a day when we Americans have made the choice to release ourselves from fear, and prejudice, and hate. All of us, with the exception of Native Americans, are immigrants to this country. Our ancestors left their homes in search of a new and better life for themselves and their families. It must have been terrifying for them to leave behind life as they knew it to come to a place about which they knew nothing and no one.
Most of our ancestors sailed by the Statue of Liberty with their lives packed in a small suitcase and pennies in their pockets. If you look at photographs of immigrants huddled together on crowded decks of ships as they approached Ellis Island, you can see fear in their eyes; but if you take a closer look, you can also see their determination. Those courageous men and women faced the challenge of making a better life head-on. Now, decades later, we too have taken up the challenge to change our country for the better. Today the countries of origin may differ, but the determination of new immigrants to America is the same as our ancestors. Many of them have fled oppression and mass murder; all have come here seeking a better life for themselves and their families.
Today let's free ourselves from the shackles of hate. Let's surrender the cloak of dread that has shrouded many of us into believing that because "they" look different from us, have different customs, worship a different god or choose not to worship at all, that makes "them" something to fear. Let's use the momentum of this election to make a better life for ALL Americans. President-elect Barack Obama is a visionary with the wisdom, strength, and understanding to unite us for the common good of all. He is intelligent, and is willing to listen to the voices of those who don't agree with his ideas.
Obama alone cannot change the disastrous course America has taken in the past 8 years, but under his leadership we can collectively have an immensely positive effect on our standing in the world and on the endless assault humankind has inflicted on our environment. Let's revel in our newfound freedom, roll up our sleeves, and do what Americans have always done best--work hard, together, to make this a better country, indeed a better world.