I came of age in 1968 (that's me on the right - New Hampshire election night.) A civil rights idealist and anti-war activist, I was formed by the horrible events, remarkable activism and leadership of that critical year. Forty years later, mostly because of Barack Obama, lost threads of memory emerged - all year long. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to reconsider those times through the lens of this remarkable election. Together they tell a story, or at least part of one, and I thought you might like to take this journey with me one more time as we move toward inaugurating the first black President of the United States, elected in the first real "Internet election"; abetted in great measure by a generation that seems, in many ways, a better, "new and improved" version of my own.
I'm going to start at the end though - the coming Inauguration, because I attended that of another "rock star" - John Kennedy, nearly fifty years ago - and all that came after was born that day. The rest is in order and I think I'm going to ** my favorites.
**The charismatic Robert Kennedy and first-comer Eugene McCarthy fought for the nomination in 1968. When McCarthy shocked everyone with his March near-win in New Hampshire (that's the photo at the top), Lyndon Johnson pulled out, guaranteeing that his Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey, would win the nomination and lose the election. In 2008 the battle was between two equally disparate Democrats: Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. Having lived through the first disaster, I was horrified by the possibility of a second. It would be too much to suffer that kind of heartbreak again.
**The spring and summer brought the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy. I was with Senator McCarthy, in San Francisco the night Dr. King died; in LA that night Robert Kennedy was killed. I was young, traumatized and in the middle of history.
That same summer, Senator Obama accepted the Democratic nomination on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's great "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington in 1963. Again, the person I was reached out to the woman I have become. Again, two points in history merged.
For the first time since 1968, since I had been a journalist for much of the time in between and done no campaigning or petition signing or much else that would be partisan activity, I went canvassing in Virginia with friends, including a four-year-old who added enormous to each trip and enchanted quite a few fence-sitters. Each trip was an adventure, always interesting, often moving.
**Of course, Election Night meant a great deal to all of us, but for me, Obama's speech in Grant Park, where my friends had been beaten and bloodied in 1968, was a perfect "exorcism" of those indelible memories.
Toward the end of the year, Judith Warner wrote about her efforts to explain the election to her kids - and so did I.
One more thing. A year-ender trip to London and Vienna once again reminded me, as the Obama Berlin trip had done, how much Europe has longed for the America that stood for decency and hope. Barack Obama was named the first-ever Times of London Man of the Year.
So here we are. I'm not sure if I'll ever have the gift of so many reasons to remember gigantic events of the past, but this year certainly provided plenty. It was a wonder and a privilege. My hope now is that, as we move forward, the hope we've all sensed over these past months will morph into a real sense of mission and purpose. That is what will take all this promise and, as we Americans have done so many times, use it to move us forward to the place we long to, and need to be.