I was around in 1960 when John Kennedy was inaugurated and it was nothing like this. Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush 2, no contest.
The closest parallel to intensity of national mood that I've seen in my 62 years came during the height of the Vietnam war. What is marked by good will today was explosive outrage during that war period (we probably should have replicated that stormy anger during the Bush II misfortune, but didn't because, I suspect, we don't have the draft). This feeling has obviously been pent up through a series of presidents who were second choices, second to "other" (for whom we are not allowed to vote).
Obama is a first pick, a man who was identified by many years ago when he gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. That night, my wife was among those recognizing what we hope is greatness. "I would vote for him," she said. "I hope to God I get to."
She held to that, much as I held to my vote for John Kerry when I saw him testify before a congressional committee during the Vietnam war as a veteran who was in courageous and outspoken opposition. "He'll run for president someday," I predicted. Little did I know that he'd run against Karl Rove and his anti-American, anti-democracy tactics.
Obama is not just the right man for the moment. The expectation is that he is a man for the age, though I'm not sure we can anticipate that. It is more about the hope than the fact and at this very moment, as we exit eight of the most difficult, destructive years in our history, his promise is all we need to start healing. If he delivers, that will simply be a bonus.
We are a good, resilient, positive and upbeat people, one whom even a George Bush cannot defeat. I have to believe that as I look back at what Bush and his cronies attempted to do: destroy my country.
Now we can start rebuilding. With the right man in place.