And then we began to cheer and weep.
“I have just spoken to the governor of Kansas, as well as my staff, my wife, and my Lord. It is with great sadness, but with great faith in America’s promise and future, that I concede this election and congratulate my opponent, Abraham Stein, on his election as the next President of the United States of America. Let this be a moment when we all come together…”
We’d done it.
Jimmy and I hugged each other so tight. We kissed. Then we jumped around with the rest of our friends—hugging them, hugging strangers, cheering loud into the sky.
“Hallelujah!” Virgil cried. “Hallelujah!”
Amen, I thought. Amen.
I have never heard such a noise as when Abraham Stein stepped onto that stage, the first g*y, the first Jew, to be elected President of the United States.
Imagine the brightest colors possible. Then make them all into sounds. Then multiply that by two million voices.
That’s what it sounded like.
We’d done it.
The Jesus Freaks and the g*y kids. The old soldiers and the students who couldn’t drive yet. Lovers and friends and exes and couples and female fathers. Every skin, every mix, every religion. People from Kansas and people from far beyond Kansas.
We’d done it. Because we had to. Because it was right.
There was a crowd standing behind Stein on the stage. Singers and actors. Ordinary volunteers. Alice Martinez. Stein’s staff members. His husband. Their children.
And in front of them all—but not really separate from them—Abraham Stein.
“There are not words with which I can thank you all enough. Everyone on this stage with me. The millions of you standing in front of me and at the state capitols. The millions more of you who have supported me with your votes. I have been talking for over a year about building the Great Community. Now I have seen that part of the work has already been done. We are already together in so many ways.
“Your message is one that I have heard, loud and clear. And it is one that will guide me as I accept your trust and faith as the next President of the United States of America. We must be guided by our ideals, by our hopes of repairing the world, by our dedication to one another and to the principles of justice, kindness, and compassion. We must stand up to evil, to fear, to hate. We must resist employing them as weapons in our own arsenal. We must remember that even though we are Americans, we are also citizens of the world and cohabitants of the earth. We must prize knowledge and creativity and invention. We must take care of one another.
“We must remember the preamble to our Declaration of Independence and usher in a new era of independence. We must remember the truths that our country is meant to hold as self-evident.
“Equality. No matter what our identity, we are considered equal in this nation.
“The unalienable right of life. That all of us are worthy and deserve protection from harm.
“The unalienable right of liberty. That all of us shall remain free.
“The unalienable right of the pursuit of happiness. Not just our own happiness, but the happiness of others as well. Do not just seek happiness for yourself. Seek happiness for all. Through kindness. Through mercy. Through opportunity.
“These are the most traditional values our country has ever had. They’re in the document where it all began.
“The Declaration of Independence says that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. We are not here out of rebellion but instead out of our own patriotic belief in America. We are not here to abolish our government, but we are here to alter it back to its original ideas. We will no longer suffer disregard toward the well-being of our people, out of greed or war or hate. We will no longer try to pit the people against one another rather than inspire them to work together. The alteration we seek is one that returns us all to our unalienable rights and to the great democratic nation that this country can be.
“Every single one of us must do what the signers of the Declaration did at the end of their document. We must mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. I pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor to you, and thank you for the pledges you have made in return to me and to this country.
“This has been an astonishing moment for me, for my family, for everyone who has worked on this campaign, and for America. Thank you again for standing up for what is right. I look forward to seeing you all at our inauguration!”
We were there.
We had been there when he’d been elected. We had been there when his election was saved. So we were there in Washington, D.C., when he was sworn into office.
Sue was there. With his father and his father’s new boyfriend, Loretta.
Mrs. Everett was there. Flora had invited her to join us.
Sara was there. We saw her in the crowd and waved. She waved back, but she didn’t stop to talk to us.
Virgil, Flora, and Clive were there. They’d driven us down, and we’d all sung “Amazing Grace” when we saw the Washington Monument in the distance.
Mira and Keisha were there. Mira was with her new girlfriend, Lisa. Keisha had just broken up with her new girlfriend, Jas. She still missed Mira.
Elwood wasn’t there. But we used our vidscreens to take him along with us, to show him what he was missing. I’d been taking him to synagogue that way, too. I’d been helping him with the Torah portion for his bar mitzvah.
Gus was there, with his new boyfriend, Ramon. They’d been going out for three days. This was a big deal.
(“Whatever happened to Pierre?” I asked Gus, remembering our last day in Topeka. “Who?” he asked back.)
Mary Catherine was not there. Jesse Marin was not there. Mr. Davis was not there. We still had to deal with them at school, but they weren’t as aggressive now. We tried to be nice to them.
Jimmy’s parents were there. His whole family was—even, to our surprise, his conservative grandparents. (“I’ve never in my life been to an inauguration, and it’s about time I went,” his grandmother had said, and that was that.)
Janna and Mandy were there. They’d gone to church on Sunday, then had come straight down with us. They’d taken the Great Community to heart and were already using their church group to bring more people together—“To work for the greater good,” Janna said. “Which is really what God’s all about. A greater good.”
Jimmy was there. Holding my hand so that our wrists touched, our pulses intermingled. When we talked about the future now, we tried to find each other in it. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the present. We pursued happiness.
Stein walked up to the podium in front of the Capitol, put his hand on the Hebrew Bible, and, with his beaming husband and impatient children at his side, became the President of the United States.
I was there. Just one young g*y Jew in a sea of people. Just one lone voice in an enormous body of sound. Just one unique person at one unique moment, there to witness something monumental.
I was a part of history.
We are all a part of history.
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