If some of the rhetoric and negative advertising during the now concluded presidential campaign was inflammatory and caustic, the frequency and unrealistic optimism of the candidates' campaign promises - from tax cuts to reform and establishment of elaborate programs with simultaneous balanced budgets - left us "promise-hardened" and "campaign-calloused."
However, a grateful and classy President-elect Barack Obama, in a tempered enthusiasm, promised the following in his acceptance speech:
"I will listen to you... I will ask you to join in the remaking of this nation... Block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." "A new dawn of American leadership is at hand."
It is a magnificent achievement for America to elect an African American president, but with the enormous challenges that lie ahead, will the American people, having elected the first African American president in it's history, allow him to lead?
If the sin of slavery has retarded the "eligibility" of African Americans for the office of President of the United States, it also plays a role in the success or failure of black leaders. During the nearly 350 years of slavery there was the belief as well as systematic propagandizing of slaves themselves, that no slave was capable of even leading another slave let alone a white person of supposed superior culture and social position. As a result a growing disrespect for black leadership has evolved except in instances where these leaders have played what amounted to ceremonial or ornamental leadership roles in mainstream culture.
Obama was right to temper his enthusiasm as navigating the tasks, function, and expectations of this uncharted position will be very complex, particularly as a pioneer. His remarks last night were telling and on-point considering that we often want leaders whom we can shape and mold rather than leaders who possess the required vision that we often do not see.
If this New Dawn of American leadership is to still be held accountable and be successful and not operate in a dysfunctional, divisive atmosphere of second-guessing, suspicion, and ultra scrutiny then yes - it must be a joint remaking of the nation, with mutual listening and cooperation. Then if Obama is blamed for mistakes, it will be because he was allowed to lead (as others before him) and we were willing to follow. And, the nation as a whole - all races, genders, young and old, and Republicans and Democrats, will collectively share in the successes as well as it's mistakes or failures.
A shout out to the hip hop generation for your participation in the process and for your ability to obtain cross-cultural appeal, respect, and acceptance. That played a role in the election of our first African American president.