What Obama means


Obama means a dream deferred is not always a dream denied.

Obama means the road to the promised land is a public highway.

Obama means that today a teacher in a crumbling classroom of free-lunch kids can tell them they can be anything, and today maybe they will believe.

Obama means there is no more waiting for the first.

Obama means that people can look beyond a name.

Obama means that words still matter, that a speech can be both politics and poetry,  that ideas carried inside the beauty of language can still inspire.

Obama means that skinny guys do not always get picked last.

Obama means that we never like one bunch to hold power too long.

Obama means that John McCain can go back to the decent, funny, admirable man he was before the campaign.

Obama means that maybe candidates will decide the best strategy is to be themselves.

Obama means that appealing to the worst in us is not always the winning play.

Obama means it doesn’t matter if you can trace your family tree to the Mayflower.

Obama means the one phrase that is never true in America is that could never happen.

Obama means our impatient citizens will stand in line for hours if they think it’s important enough.

Obama means the rest of the world looks at us in a new way.

Obama means maybe we look at ourselves in a new way.

Obama means that growing up poor or growing up biracial or growing up in a broken home might close doors around you, but those doors are not locked.

Obama means the rest of us have no excuses.

Obama means that our country is founded not on myths and legends, not on frilly phrases jotted down by old white men two centuries ago, but on fundamental truths that we can still make real.

Obama means that when we say all men and women are created equal, we might finally be ready to put a period at the end.


32 thoughts on “What Obama means

  1. Does Obama mean Savior?

  2. Pingback: What “What Obama means” means « Tommy Tomlinson

  3. Tommy – so glad to be reading your words again and glad you are feeling fine. Great column as usual. Will be a faithful reader once again now that I have discovered your site here!

  4. The USA was built on those “frilly phrases jotted down by old white men”. Obama earned the right to be president of this great nation. I pray that in the future he will not be remembered for frilly words from a black man. He will be our president and he is due respect. Our founding fathers are due respect. I belive “those frilly phrases” are fundamental truths. I am disappointed in your choice of words. I want to believe that you intended something else other than what I have ascertained from your phrase.
    Aside from that I hope you have a great Thanksgiving, we have a great deal for which to be thankful. Love you both

  5. I was at my sister’s in Waxhaw the week of the election, so read this on Saturday. It is wonderful. In fact, I have given your blog site to several friends here in NH so they could read it also. Great job.

  6. Howdy Tommy,

    I think you might have topped “Snow Fell.” Fabulous piece, Tommy, and made me miss you more. Dave and I worked tirelessly for the O campaign here in CLT, and it was a truly wonderful experience. Given the “blue” outcome for NC, and by such a small margin, we really felt like everyone’s efforts made a difference.

    Glad all is well with you and Alix (and how is Fred?), and that you are still on the good mend. You’ll be up to a 25 lb lift in no time.

    Hugs to you both,

  7. Your blog on A Man and a Moment apparently touched some people’s lives in a positive way, but I found your comment regarding frilly phrases jotted down by old white men, apalling. I hope that I’m interpreting it incorrectly. If so, please let your readers know.

    From your blog and previous writings it is apparent who you supported in this election. I would love to know if you were in charge of chosing the next president and you were given both McCain’s and Obama’s resumes, who would you choose? Obama’s work history reflected nothing of his ability to lead the Executive Branch including the role of Commander and Chief. But I do give him credit for the campaign that he ran and the way that he positioned himself to be president. Pretty amazing that he could do his job in the Senate and have the time to write two books which were clearly written for one purpose.

    It is sincerely my hope that I am wrong about President-Elect Obama. I wasn’t thrilled with either choice that I was given. I would love it if he became an extraordinary president. Only time will tell.

    Lastly, I would like to point out a very incorrect statement that you made regarding skinny guys being picked last. As a team captain for many dodgeball games growing up, I always chose the skinniest kids in the group! The tall skinny ones are also good to have on your team in pick-up basketball games!

  8. Mr. Tomlinson,
    I was an active teen Obama intern, and I read your post in the Charlotte Observer on “A Man and a Moment” on Saturday, November 8th. Simply put…Langston Hughes would have been impressed 😉 !

  9. Tommy, It is sad that you found it necessary to denigrate our founding fathers. Those “frilly phrases jotted down by old white men” are “words that still matter” and proof that “ideas carried inside the beauty of language can still inspire”. The fact that our founding fathers did not get it 100 percent right the first time does not lessen the greatness of their feats. When the day is over Obama is after all just a man just as they were, no better no worse. Lets all pray that he can get it all right the first time so you won’t have to turn on him and call his speeches frilly phrases jotted down by an old black man. In closing those old white men were(the majority of them anyway) younger than Obama is today.

  10. thanks again tommy for giving all of us the right words for the moment

  11. Tommy,
    Your column “Obama means” is perhaps the most moving I’ve ever read. My wife and I were raised in the JFK era where we were met with promise and hope. We have not felt this way since. Your column was written in such an poetic way that it moved us to feel that way again. Thank you!

  12. I was so moved by your words. You have a wonderful talent for capturing the moment and even challenging us in how we think about/view things. Glad Harvard is treating you well. Pls come back to Charlotte, though!

  13. I was extremely disappointed with your blog about Obama that appeared on Saturday, November 8th in the Charlotte Observer. Although I did not vote for Obama I do realize that this a step forward for our country that a colored person was elected. However, I found your blog a bit racist, and yes I do realize that you are “white”. And white is not the preferred nomenclature….please refer to us as caucasian. First of all, do you believe that our country was founded on myths and legends? If so, you need to stop reading Peter Pan books and do some basic history research. And like it or not, this country was founded by caucasians and if you don’t like it, then leave. Your comment about “old white men” was offense to me and my race. I pray that Obama lives up to the standards that he has created, but the sad thing is that if he doesn’t and he fails miserably it will be ok because he’s black and we all achieved something because of that. Who cares if we have no money in our pockets, “our president is black!!!”

  14. There you go again, Tommy! I’d just put away the hanky until Inauguration Day.

  15. Tommy, one of my first thoughts Wednesday morning as I walked back to the house with my Observer was, “Oh . . . no Tommy Tomlinson! What a column he’d be writing this morning!” You were the only thing missing from joyous day. So I was so glad to see the Observer print your blog post in today’s paper. You are missed by many readers.

  16. Excellent column, Tommy!

    I especially like the “Obama means our impatient citizens will stand in line
    for hours if they think it’s important enough”

    A very interesting read on Obama’s background. Seeing the chronology you
    provided from his birth to present, really puts it all in perspective.


    Ray Lyons
    York County, SC.

  17. As a teacher of free-lunch kids in a crumbling classroom, Tommy’s Obama Means, brought tears to my eyes.

  18. I’m sorry but I think all of you have gone off the deep end. Prior to our existing gereration, there have been many black,female, white persons that have made considerable strides toward equality for Americans.

    The problem is, this generation has hung to the prejudices of the past and LET them be an excuse for their lack of accomplishments.

    I came from an abusive, non-educated family. I was poor, female, and on my own at 18. I told myself I could accomplish anything I set my mind to because I had my health. I am self taught because I had to work 2 jobs just to pay my rent. There could of been a green president and it would not of mattered. This generation needs to get up off their bottoms, stop spending more than they have and set goals they are willing to sacrifice to succeed.

    If we don’t stop and take Obama off his godly pedestal and let him try and do his job as just a man, I’m afraid for American.

  19. You’ve still got it, kid.

  20. I copied this and sent to all of my friends who were equally as blown away by it’s quiet beauty as I was…miss reading your columns! When are you coming HOME?

  21. Good stuff, Tommy. We miss you!

    Feels like Christmas morning today…

  22. T2, the only person more eloquent than you is Mr. Obama himself. I’m 2/3s of the way through “Dreams from my Father,” and I can’t think of a finer book I’ve read in a long, long time. After I finally stopped crying last night, I got this s.e. grin on my face and it hasn’t left yet.
    Miss you guys.

  23. Amen.
    I am thinking about getting an “Obama” tattoo, if my hubby lets me.

  24. It didn’t quite seem like the Observer without your column on this election (though Tonya did a damn fine job). I really hate that we didn’t get to share this with all our readers, but I’m glad I read it. Keep stuffing your brain — but come back soon!

  25. Wow! That’s all I can say after reading these words

  26. As usual, Tommy, you nailed it.

  27. Pingback: O B A M A ! | Emily A. Benton

  28. hey Tommy – got your link from Crystal. Thanks for this thoughtful summary. I’ve never been so proud of our country!

    oh, and tell Alix I said hi! 🙂

  29. T: It was a true pleasure to read your words this a.m. We missed you and Alix last night. The newsroom was bustling and hustling.
    Stay warm!

  30. Obama means that I am proud to live in this country.
    Obama means that young people all over America can believe that they make a difference.
    Obama means that anything is possible.

  31. Pingback: When the Square starts a rockin’ (don’t bother knockin’) « blognarian

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