I remember a professor in Divinity School asking what unites the various forms of Humanism, from the Renaissance to the modern era. I paraphrased the words of a 19th century Unitarian minister, James Freeman Clarke, and said, "a belief in the progress of humankind, onward and upward, forever and ever!" The professor sighed and said, "It's so poetic; I wonder if anyone believes it anymore." I remember thinking that I believed it - humanity really does progress over time, but that in my lifetime I had seen very little evidence.
Tonight I've seen the proof of that progress. I'm thrilled that my candidate has won, that the Supreme Court has been saved, that we'll have a President who understands a multi-cultural, pluralistic world, that that after eight years of reckless disregard for the Constitution, we'll have someone who is truly an expert on the document and who cares for it deeply. I'm over the moon that the person I supported from the beginning has pulled this off. (This just never happens to me!) But all of this, important as it is, is secondary to the simple fact of what happened in this country tonight.
150 years ago, slavery was legal in the United States. 50 years ago, much of the country lived under Jim Crow. Many public facilities were not fully integrated until the 1970s and 80s. And now this country has elected an African American - with the middle name Hussein, no less - to be our President. That means more than an accomplishment for one man or one race - it is an accomplishment for humanity, and for the American people. It is an accomplishment for White Americans who have been able to leave behind - or at least to suppress - the bigotry that has defined so much of our history. The struggle against racial injustice is far from over, but tonight the evidence of progress is clear.
I think what means the most to me about this victory is that it did not happen because Obama was African American - or even, I think, in spite of it. It happened because a majority of the people believed that this man would do the best job.
I don't agree with everything Obama says or does. In many ways he is far more of a centrist than I am. I do believe, though, in his basic integrity and ability to lead people through transformative change. That's something we haven't seen in a President for a long time. And once again, and still - I believe in the progress of humankind.