Public Comment

Waiting on the World to Change

By Michelle Milam
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:35:00 AM

I am thinking in moments. I was born nearly 10 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and nearly 16 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. My baby sister is five years my junior, my best friend and “sister” is five years my senior. My young cousin was born in the 1990s, and my goddaughter was born in 2000. Many of the children I work with are two generations removed from the civil upheaval of the 1960s. I find it ironic that Barack Obama was born eight weeks after the world received that fateful news that shots struck the presidential motorcade in Dallas. 

We are the face of the next generation of Americans who have been given the keys to an elusive and magical kingdom. What we do with it will determine the future not only for this country, but the world. 

I am struck by the irony of a changing season and a constant hope. Via the Internet, I watched Sen. Kennedy graciously and proudly pass the torch at the DNC the other night. Nearly 40 years before me, on a black and white television, my mother watched as many of the great and influential change makers of her generation were gunned down. Young men of my father’s generation lived an unsure existence never knowing if they’d be drafted into war. Today many of our young men and women are not only fighting an enemy on a foreign soil, we are fighting a domestic enemy—one who looks like us, holding a handgun and ready to take aim. 

My grandparents, only two generations from slavery, lived under Jim Crow. After coming to work in the shipyards of Richmond, they finally bought a home in El Cerrito after being told by a couple down the street, “Nobody will sell to a black family.” Today, many of our generation have moved home, since despite our education, in the face of foreclosure, a sour economy and high housing markets, the keys to the kingdom are under glass. 

Is eight years of conservative rule enough? Barack Obama seems to teeter precariously on a thin line between familiarity and risk, baiting the national conscious, hoping that Americas will vote it. 

I agree with McCain and Clinton supporters; this election is not about political experience, something that would matter more in a typical business as usual election year. McCain and the Clinton-Bush dynasty have more than enough experience to roll Obama under a bus back to Chicago. But what do all those moments of experience mean if this moment demands something decidedly different? What values does this generation believe in? 

There is really only one question that needs to be answered, and that question is not whether Barack Obama is ready to lead. 

Is America ready to change? 

Be careful, if you breathe, you may miss the moment. 


Michelle Milam is a Richmond resident.