Today begins what is arguably the most historic presidency of our lifetime. Out with the old and in with the new: it’s an agreeable concept to most people. Apart from human nature’s affinity fpr what’s new and fresh, our new President seems to have touched something deeper. You’d have to be hiding under a rock not to see how energized Americans feel about their new leader. There are countless moving moments as you watch and hear people from all walks passionately express their excitement and hope for the future. It’s downright infectious.
But why? Obviously it is no small thing that we as a country have elected a qualified president in spite of race. For all people that saw race as a semi-permanent divider, this is a critical turning point. And although racial divides have far from disappeared, the world will never be the same. Whether you’re Black, Latino, Asian or even Caucasian, your respective paradigms of what’s possible are different. Think of the first cross Atlantic trip, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, the emancipation of slaves, the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote – these historic acts all changed our society forever by changing our paradigms of what was possible. You see, the value of moments like this is rooted in our willingness as a country to believe that anything is possible and then to roll up our sleeves to make it happen. The real “hope” lies not in what President Barack Obama will do himself, but rather in our ability to mobilize around the opportunities his leadership creates.
As Hispanics, we stand at a critical juncture. Much has happened in our communities in the last several years. The difficult discussions around immigration offered both optimism and concern for our future as Americans. We saw our families stand up in support of family reunification, a pathway to citizenship and a secure country, but we also saw many voices in opposition to our residence in this country and our participation in this democracy, many of them ugly in tone. It was a wake-up call that helped mobilize Hispanics to the polls in record numbers, generating key wins in battleground states that arguably put this president over the top and into the White House. We, for the moment, demonstrated our electoral force and offered a window into future elections in this country and the need to pay closer attention to Latinos everywhere.
But just as we ask our leaders to respect our vote, honor our culture, and grant us the opportunity to contribute to this nation, so too is it imperative that we understand the responsibility that comes along with the package. In the words of our new president, our commitment to making this democracy work is the “price of citizenship”. As immigrants, most of us have already made quite an expensive investment. Many of us have risked our lives, left our families, careers, and sometimes our financial securityin order to garner the freedom and opportunity this country offers. The investment has been too high and too significant to stop here. We must make good on that investment by ensuring to continue participating in this democracy and thus strengthening this country.
All of us at Democracia USA are committed to taking on the task of answering this president’s call to service with measurable action, respond to his promise of hope with optimistic skepticism, and work hard to ensure his waves of change include the needs and aspirations of our families across this country.
Today is clearly a momentous day for not only Americans, but for many across the globe. As I watched the inaugural crowd wave what seemed like millions of American flags, I noticed that on occasion, my eye would catch a foreign flag. In the sea of red, white and blue, I saw an occasional sign that said Brazilian-Americans, Haitian-Americans, Puerto Ricans and others are here to celebrate and participate in the future of this country. They were moments that added yet another goose bump to the many I had already experienced. And who knows, if we roll up our sleeves and work hard, there may be lots more moments ahead. Yeah, more goose bumps would be nice. It’s been a while.
– Jorge Mursuli, Executive Director Democracia USA