To the point week of 11-6-08

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HISTORY CLOSED A CIRCLE ON Tuesday. A student of history, I am always amazed at how history brings itself around to close off chapters of time and open others.

On Tuesday, a circle was closed. It was a circle that was centuries in coming back to itself, closing itself off, never to be opened again.

As I near 50, the election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States on Tuesday stands as the beginning of a new circle of history. Hopefully rather than governing over a nation that has been divided by factions, our new president will govern over a country that is beginning to set its differences aside and see what everyone has in common.

It was 45 years ago, in January of 1963, that George Wallace stood on the steps of the State Capitol Building, being sworn in as Governor of that state.

In his inauguration speech, he said these words:

“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Six months later, Governor Wallace would stand in front of the doors of Foster Auditorium on the campus of the University of Alabama. He stood to block the entrance of African-American students to the University, and moved aside only after federal marshals and the Deputy Attorney General of the United States confronted him.

In September of 1963 Governor Wallace worked to prevent four African-American children from entering four elementary schools in Alabama. He relented after the federal court in Birmingham ordered that the children be allowed to go to school, making them the first integrated elementary schools in the state.

And that was just 45 years ago.

George Wallace ran for President of the United States in 1964, running in a platform of segregation, and won one-third of the primary vote in three states: Wisconsin, Maryland,

And Indiana.

In 1968 – 40 years ago – George Wallace ran for the White House (pun implied) again, this time as a third party candidate on the American Independent Party.

He hoped to get Southern States to join together and help him push his platform to end segregation.

By the end of the 1968 General Election, George Wallace, an independent candidate, won five Southern States and garnered almost 10 million votes.

He remains to this day the last non-Democrat, non-Republican to win any electoral votes.

He ran again for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972, and won the Florida primary with 42-percent of the vote.

But that was a “different” George Wallace. He ran on a platform that no longer favored segregation, although he did opposed the desegregation of busing during the campaign.

While campaigning in Maryland in May of 1972, George Wallace was shot, a bullet lodging in his spine and paralyzing him from the waist down for the rest of his life.

After he was shot, he still won four primaries, and spoke at the Democratic National Convention from his wheelchair in July of that year.

He would again run for President in 1976, but it was a short-lived attempt, as the nation had begun to move away from his ideology.

In the late 1970s, George Wallace became a born-again Christian, and publicly apologized for his segregationist views.

He died in September of 1998.

So why do I tell you the story of George Wallace?

Because in a span of 40 years, this country – and specifically the Democratic party – has moved from seeing a segregationist bigot garner national votes and national attention –

To watching an African-American stand in front of 500,000 people in a park in Chicago and acknowledge that he will be the 44th President of the United States.

The circle has been closed. It’s time to move forward.

We know live in a country that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of, when he said that he longed for a day when his children, “…Would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character…”.

If America is the “Great Melting Pot” of culture, then the symbol of that diversity came to the forefront in this election.

Barack Obama is the son of an African man and a white woman from Kansas. He was raised in large part by a grandparent, just as many children are doing today in this country.

He has seen the good that this country has to offer, and he has seen the bad that this country has to offer.

Although his election will continue to divide this country in terms of politics; it can no longer be said that this country is divided by color.

Agree with his political stances or not, we must all agree that things have changed greatly in the past four decades – and will undoubtedly change greatly in the coming four decades.

If Sarah Palin is indeed the next symbolic leader of the Republican Party, then it is entirely possible that the Presidential Election of 2012 will feature an incumbent African-American and a woman.

Now there’s a circle of history.