Our Better Nature

This man is about to accept the nomination as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States.  He will be the first black man or woman ever to do so.  This isn’t merely a great moment in our history, it is monumental, and it moves me to tears.  I live in a city that is predominantly African-American, but is also the home to Duke University, and every day I see the line – it cuts like a razor – between those who have and those who haven’t.  Walk three blocks any direction from my house and you’ll see children who have no faith in education, no path to walk, sweet and funny kids who deserve everything in the world and would never dare hope for it.  And yet here a black man stands:  a person of fealty, ideals, fearlessness, a searing intellect, and – it cannot be said enough – hope and hope and hope.  Barack Obama is about to accept the nomination, and then he will be the next President of this country, and this is not a night for snarkiness or cleverness.  We can stand in earnestness just this once.  As far as I’m concerned, we can run into the streets shouting Hallelujah.  We can sing praises of joy, because this is a joyous, joyous occasion.  Finally, we have given voice to the angels of our better nature, and it’s been a long, long time since we’ve heard from them.

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 9:17 pm  Comments (32)  


  1. I couldn’t say it any better!! I am so thrilled to watch the DNC convention this week.

    I never gave much care before but now I am obssessed with politics now and care so much about this election.

    I am getting weepy just watching his acceptance speeh!

  2. Oh those last two or three minutes! He knocked it out of the park. Not to mention, “John McCain says he’ll follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell, but he won’t even follow him to the cave where he lives.” I HOWLED with laughter.

  3. i think we’re feeling some hope, yes.

    i remember when JFK, MLK and Bobby were all assassinated. i was five, six, seven, eight. it felt like the end of the world. it was the end of the world. but now i am reminded of something Churchill once said, in a dark time: “This isn’t the end. It isn’t even the beginning of the end. It may, however, be the end of the beginning.”

    and sometime around that bloody time in the 60’s, when this country spat out great men like they were filth, god bless his trying soul, my father marched with MLK in Selma. In the words of Reverend King:
    “The arc of universal truth is long, but it bends toward justice.”


  4. Between Hillary’s speech Tuesday and Barack’s tonight I’ve never cried AND laughed at what a politician had to say. No way. No how. No McCain. YES WE CAN!!!!

  5. I’ve had goosebumps and tears in my eyes at every turn of these campaigns, both reactions to reasons that could not be farther apart: rage at the audacity of those who sling mud, and cautious optimism that we can pull this country back from the brink. I’ve hoped for change for the last eight years, and yet now my hopes include Obama to enact the changes we need. I’m 31 years old, and remember fondly the feelings I had towards Clinton, and the fact he could turn things around after Reagan and Bush I…the fact that I can be moved to tears by a candidate is something I have never envisioned. I think, after not feeling it for more than 8 years, that I’m crying because he have hope. We are living through positive history, such a wonderful change after living through so much negative history.

  6. I almost chose a photograph of him, Suze, that was reminiscent of Bobby Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis — but the one above is so him; it isn’t derivative of any other man or woman who might have saved our nation’s soul. And damn did he do right to raise the spectre of MLK at the very end, and then close with that gorgeous bit of Scripture. I’m with Brandon — the race done been run, and for once in this generation, the good guys won.

    I’d watch the whole thing again just to see him hold up his hand and say, “ENOUGH.”

  7. Laura, I agree completely. My outrage at Bush turned into numbness. BUT I have hope that Obama will help mend our spirits and help us heal.

    Don’t forget the last sentence from The Used World “What feels like the end of the world never is. It never is.” Oh, Haven you are brilliant!

  8. Thank you for putting into words what we are all feeling after such a moving night. However, the speech that really brought tears to my eyes was Michelle’s on Monday night. It was perfection.

  9. I’ve been a “lurker” here for a while. Tonight I came online to put my own thoughts about this election onto my little blog and then clicked to read your newest post. Thanks for saying it and saying it so well. It’s a wonderful and amazing time to be alive, isn’t it?

  10. Brandon is my new boyfriend. (It doesn’t matter if you’re gay — all my other boyfriends are, too. Except for Elvis.)

  11. Vanessa, I can’t even LOOK at Michelle without tearing up. I wonder if I’m suffering from some sort of dementia.

  12. I’m 51 years old; at times that seems like a very inconvenient age. And yet … I can juuuust remember MLK’s speech 45 years ago, and here I am tonight watching as Obama recalls it in a inconceivably different and suddenly astonishingly hopeful context, and … what can I tell you? I wouldn’t trade being this age for anything. The perspective it gives me, leaves me weak in the knees. And terribly terribly humble. As must be any witness to great, realigning events. Humble and hopeful, that’s me. Sounds like you too.

  13. Remember months ago when I promised you, Rob, that the fight wasn’t nearly over yet? I said I would MAKE it happen if I had to? My strategy was subtle: every time I looked at anyone, a stranger, a friend, someone I passed on the street, I thought very hard, “You are, at this very moment, evolving into someone who will do what is necessary to save our children and our planet and Rob’s heart.” And ta da! It worked with everyone but this homeless guy we call The Mayor of 9th Street, because he’d already evolved way past all that.

  14. “What feels like the end of the world never is. It never is.”

    Don’t EVER give up hope. You just have to wait long enough for things to turn around again, or for you to be able to turn them around. But meanwhile, no matter what happens, you can’t give up.

  15. And don’t forget “Programs won’t replace parents.” Many times a week I need to reflect on “What feels like the end of the world never is. It never is.” as I deal with a teen-age daughter I love dearly. If not for ourselves, please God, for our children let the change in the leadership of our country begin.

  16. AT 75, after 8 years of GWB, 8 horrible years with the country sold to the oil companies and Dick Cheney being president-in-fact, I was afraid I would die before there was a reason to hope for my beloved country again. Now I’m glad I’m still alive to watch and weep and feel what I felt when Bobby Kennedy spoke in Indianapolis the night MLK was shot. I have not given up.

  17. You all have wonderful comments here. I am holding on to this hope, waiting for November when I can again cast my vote. I cannot imagine that the people of this country will stand for another 8 years of the kind of “leadership” we have suffered through. It seems like it will be such a whirlwind, as we are on the verge of September with November just a mere 2 months away, really. And the campaigning to this point lasted 18 months. I am praying that all of us will be able to get out there and vote in November, and that the people will elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the men who can, with the help of the people, turn this country around. It is time for all of us to prosper, and to be able to do so without fighting against the policies of our nation that have been put in place by the privileged few! Great posts, Haven and everyone!

  18. Hallelujah indeed! The man just GETS it. And, oh, the poetry! Lofty? Yes. Intellectual? Yes. Unafraid to hope? YES! Finally, someone who speaks my language.

  19. It was one of the most profound and moving political events I have ever witnessed. My prayer is that this grows into a real social movement in America where individuals make individual — daily — decisions to choose to rise above the fears and the disparities and the rancor that has arisen so formidably and so dreadfully in our recent history.

    I am 54 and my life has coincided with a torrent of incredible events — most of which I barely understand. This one, I welcome.

    Though I am white, one of my missions in life has been to comprehend, so I can demolish, the racism in my own being and within my own tiny sphere of influence. We are humankind, humankind, humankind.

  20. What an honor to be your boyfriend, Haven! The great thing about gay boyfriends is that we don’t mind sharing our great women. My partner is apolitical which is so vexing. So, I’ll gladly take a girlfriend with such passion. WE CAN and WILL change this world as long as we keep an open dialogue of hope that engages others to rise above the past 8 years.

    Mother Delonda – What I would give to have your wisdom and fortitude!

  21. PRIVATE (not really) to DELONDA: The text of Bobby’s speech is engraved on his grave at Arlington, just down the hill a little way from JFK’s.

    Here is an excerpt:
    “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: ‘to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.'”

    We’re gonna make it, folks.

    These last eight years have been a slap in the face.

    But we’re turning the other cheek and walkin’ on.

  22. Amen! Now we all need to work hard to help keep the momentum going.

  23. Damn skippy to Haven’s comment about the “Enough” moment.

    That plus his comment about his daughters earning as much as everyone else’s sons = my moments of amen-and-hallelujah-goosebumps-on-my-arms.

  24. One thing I kept noticing last night is how truly gentle he is — perhaps I should say he’s a gentleman. Because I am not one, and I kept imagining saying things like, “The reason I’m standing here and the reason you want change is because you are tired of having a man with an IQ of 77 in the White House. Also he’s a drunk sociopath and a misanthrope. He’s only a misanthrope when he’s conscious, which is rare. And you’re afraid of being shot in the face by Dick Cheney, who COULD be called a psychopath, except he’s made out of wires and plastic explosives and rotting meat. And the level of corruption in our current administration is so bald and pervasive that we have turned away from it in horror, which makes us distant cousins to the Germans who pretended not to notice that their Jewish neighbors were vanishing in the night. We’ve become zombies, and zombies are simply terrible creatures — look at what they do to shopping malls, for instance. And you are also going to elect me because I am, frankly, fabulous. I am fabulousness itself, as is my fabulous wife, Michelle, and our two saucy little daughters. This tie is LAVENDER, people.”

  25. But seriously. I’ll never forget the feeling of watching him walk down that narrow catwalk into the sea of people in Germany, one man alone in a massive crowd. The Germans love him so much because they know he could reunite us with Europe, which is the beginning of being generally forgiven for our unforgiveable sins.

    My friend Larry Baker sent me a video of people all over the country standing by railroad tracks as the train bearing Bobby Kennedy’s body crossed the nation. I’ve never seen anything that made me cry like that. Black people, white people, everyone imaginable, side by side and weeping as if they’d lost their own brother. Which, of course, they had. The comparisons between the two men are inevitable — the highest compliment we can pay Obama — just please little lord Jeebus Lamb of the Highest, keep him safe and alive, amen.

  26. Hello Mama. Always a joy when you check in. You’re smarter than most, as you may know. Plus I like you.

  27. “Though I am white, one of my missions in life has been to comprehend, so I can demolish, the racism in my own being and within my own tiny sphere of influence. We are humankind, humankind, humankind.”

    You move me, George Stuteville, you rascal you.

  28. amen, amen, and amen. until the talk became serious that he would run for president i had no hope at all for the future of the u.s. i can say now that i was wrong… he give me hope like i never thought possible. here’s to JANUARY TWENTIETH!

  29. Turnabout is fair play, Miz Haven. I am getting ready to dig into Iodine on my trip back to Indiana this coming week. (Going there on business, but I get to see a bunch of people I love, and if I am lucky, the security guards may let me go to The Star City Room. I lived and died, laughed and cried, a lot there.) Hope you and all the folks here have a great holiday weekend.

  30. George, when you get to the security guards at the Star newsroom, just lift up your shirt and show them your boobies! Not only will they let you in, they’ll throw you plastic beads!

  31. If I had only known…

    Doors formerly closed to be would suddenly be open…

    …and with necklaces, too?


  32. Last week, while watching the DNC with dear friend Linny, whose commitment to Obama extended to her working toward becoming a delegate, she mentioned the question circulating to the effect of, “would you vote for Obama knowing that he’d become a target for assassination?” My response, biased perhaps by having grown up watching any leader who inspired hope murdered, was that when he becomes president, the Secret Service needs a Haven Kimmel. I don’t know why you and Daniel and Melinda read those flash cards so consistently correctly — if it’s genes or heightened awareness that nurtures that extra-sensory perception — but the guys in sunglasses and earphones will need to do more than scan the crowd. Intent can be felt: is there anyone who’s not been woken up by someone’s stare?
    Thank you for your brilliant books, and very especially for this beautiful blog of yours.

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