Opinion: Barack Obama and Michelle share a background and now this day


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Loyal Ticket readers in recent days have been treated to the photography, reporting and video work of our colleague Michelle Maltais. We asked Michelle, the daughter of a Jamaican and a white American, to write down her most personal thoughts about this historic presidential inauguration of a fellow mixed-race American to share with Ticket readers on this morning.

Here they are and here she is:

WASHINGTON -- People have come here from all across the country to be part of history and today’s inauguration.

Among the hordes are several of my cousins, who flew from Northern California; my godmother came from Kansas City with her other goddaughter from Hawaii. I, too, felt compelled to be here,
but not merely to witness “history.”

I came to our nation’s capital this week to witness progress, to create a live, indelible snapshot for my mental scrapbook and to share the experience here with my 9-year-old godson who, like President-elect Barack Obama and me, is bicultural.

Being here transcends the political. To me, it’s about this country’s culture, fabric and fiber. Seeing this inauguration is an opportunity to begin to heal what has been a great painful and persistent shared psychic bruise that has remained deep beneath the surface of our society.


Throughout the presidential campaign, even as support began to swell across the country for Obama, I was as certain as I was about my own name that America was not culturally mature enough in its nationhood to get beyond its own past. I think somehow this knowledge -– more certain and unwavering than belief -– has subconsciously been one of the bedrocks of my, and maybe even a shared, understanding of life in America.

I have known that, as the biracial child of a black Jamaican and a white American, I have been an American with an asterisk.

So when this country elected to the highest office in the United States of America Barack Hussein Obama, who is to be the first black to serve as president, I had to come to bear witness -– show with my existence that this is, indeed, true.

The ability to see yourself reflected in your leaders, particularly when it seemed a certain impossibility, is important. I have this plastic ruler in my desk drawer at the office that displays the pictures and tenures of the U.S. presidents up to William Jefferson Clinton. Every once in a while, I pull the thing out, look at it and shake my head. Although these men represented us all, I knew no one on it
truly represented me.

In some ways, it feels a bit like the end of the movie “The Matrix,” when Neo confronts the system that everyone unknowingly was plugged into, offering them “a world without rules and controls, without
borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.”

As Obama utters the oath of office this morning, his family beside him, I believe I will sit quietly in a combination of stunned disbelief and pride.

Disbelief that what I feared to even imagine has actually come to pass and pride in my country for being more than I had believed it was able to be. I may finally begin to reconcile and reconfigure my American life, asterisk erased.

--Michelle Maltais

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