A cartoon in the 1960’s showed a Black boy saying to a White boy: “I’ll sell you my chance to be president of the United States for a nickel.” President Obama was then a toddler, and the overwhelming majority of Black southerners were denied the right to vote. That little boy’s chances-and yours-changed dramatically on November 4, 2008. I was deeply moved that enough Americans of all colors would be willing to do for you and for all of our nation’s and world’s children what Dr. King dreamed-vote for a president based on the content of his character and intellect rather than the color of his skin.
I am so proud of America. I am so proud of the Obama family, whose image and accomplishments will change stereotypes about Black families and what Black people can accomplish. Always remember this miraculous moment in our nation’s history, the result of so many decades of Black struggle and sacrifice. And please remember our new leader’s example and lessons: Your color has nothing to do with your worth. You are as good as anyone, depending on what is in your heart and head. Set a goal, persevere, stay in school, study hard, and let no obstacle deter you. The impossible is possible with vision, character, discipline, hard work and a “Yes, We Can” attitude.
This election, in which young people played such a big role, says to every child of color that you belong, too; you can be and do anything any child can; and you can make a difference no matter how poor you are, what family type you have or what hue your skin is. So hold on to your dreams and never let anyone tell you your young voice doesn’t count. You can change the world-and did.
Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund and author of The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small.