CHICAGO—This blog post comes to you from a departure lounge at O’Hare International Airport, where I’m about to board a flight to the Concepts Worldwide Advisory Board meeting in San Diego County.
Getting there has meant passing through the state that gave the United States its next president, and the world its best hope, less than 12 hours after CNN declared a victory that rapidly became an electoral blow-out.
As we headed home from an election night watch party (yes, in Ottawa . . . yes, definitely in Canada), I realized I’d never quite believed that this day would ever come.
This morning, O’Hare is such an interesting place to be. Local newspapers are flying off the shelves, a couple of them with full cover photos of Chicago’s latest local hero. I’ve actually bought a couple of print editions for the first time in at least three years, knowing that my eventual grandchildren might appreciate a framed copy of today’s front page.
I know of at least one industry colleague in the U.S. who’s collecting front pages from around the world.
Back at O’Hare, I don’t think I’m imagining an atmosphere that is so much more festive than you would expect at this, of all airports. Each of a half-dozen conversations with perfect strangers has begun with uncontrolled, spontaneous grins all around, and ended with the traveller from across the border congratulating one more voter—from Illinois, from California, from Washington State—on the monumental achievement in which they played a part.
That’s a whole lot more partisan fervour than I would normally show—in our work, or on this blog. But that’s because this win is about so much more than partisanship.
To illustrate the point, look no farther than Obama’s speech last night. He placed substance and purpose above spin, genuine dialogue above artificial division, practicality above ideology. He balanced soaring inspiration—yes, President Obama, we can—with a sober look at the challenges ahead. He called for collaboration and engagement as the surest antidotes to apathy and defeat. And the magnificent campaign that brought us all to this brilliant, shining moment was a triumph of smart, strategic thinking and nearly flawless execution.
When he’s out on the speaking circuit, Bill Clinton has a great line about our common humanity being more important than our “interesting differences.” There will be tough times and discouraging times ahead, for Obama and for all of us. But with the power of the common humanity that CNN beamed into our living rooms from Grant Park last night, we have a shot.
And if we can carry this off, if we can build a common future that sustains our common humanity, those future grandchildren just might attach some degree of meaning to a framed front page from November 5, 2008.