Guest post by Negin Sobhani
NIAC is a non-profit, non-partisan 501 c(3), and therefore does not endorse candidates for political office. The following article should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any candidate for any office, and reflects solely the personal opinion of the author.
I understand Michelle Obama now more than ever. On Thursday, August 28, 2008, for the first time in my 26 years, I was truly proud of America and to be an American citizen. It went a little deeper than that though, because for the first time in my life, I cried during the singing of the national anthem. Usually, I have not been moved by emotions of the Olympian, soldier, astronaut, veteran, politician, or baseball player who stands up and pays homage to a flag and country that has not instilled in me that level of nationalism that it has for those who have more roots or owe their achievements solely to this country. I’m not sure if it was the way Jennifer Hudson sang the most beautiful and heartfelt rendition of the anthem I’ve ever heard or if it was the cumulative exhaustion from a 5-day whirlwind of events, activities, and sleeplessness or perhaps the sheer historic importance of the opening to a night I will remember for the rest of my life. Whatever it was, I know I wasn’t alone.
In my immediate surroundings was three African-American women from Tennessee, Rwanda, and Ghana; a sole Latino young man; an older lesbian couple; three high-school aged students-Black and Latino; older White women; older Black men; and individuals I may have assumed to be “rednecks” or republicans had I met them elsewhere. That night, all of us shared not only our support for an Obama presidency, but in the American promise which enabled all of us to sit in the stadium, take witness to the night, wave flags when we cheered, and shed tears when we cried.
I know Iranians and African Americans are not exactly two peas in a pod. I understand there are obvious cultural differences between these two groups as there are with others, nevertheless I have always been disturbed by the prejudice towards Blacks in America who have, in my opinion, inexcusably suffered from the post-slavery institutionalized racism embedded in this country long before the first Iranian ever arrived at Lady Liberty’s shore. Iranians, like other minorities before and after us, have had to endure difficulties in this country, but Iranian immigrants have traditionally been more educated and in a relatively comfortable socio-economic class upon their arrival or soon thereafter. However, it is precisely because of the shared history of injustice, prejudice, and ignorance that made me prouder than ever to call myself an American who was able to participate as a county and district delegate who caucused, donated, phoned, and registered for Obama. By simply participating in the democratic process available to every American citizen I am able to claim a small but important piece of ownership in the victory and acceptance of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for President.
Overall this was an amazing week where I was personally able to intellectually benefit from the events focused on my passions surrounding women’s issues at the Unconventional Women’s Symposium and The White House Project’s 10th Anniversary Celebration; Middle Eastern politics and US foreign policy with The New America Foundation’s event “Can the Next President Make the Middle East Irrelevant”, J Street’s coming out reception, and a local gathering on NIAC; and a discussion on the many problems plaguing Africa at the 2008 Rocky Mountain Roundtable on Global Poverty. Equally exciting was the energy in Denver as the Democratic Party, Americans, and the world zeroed-in on our mile-high western city for an historic week in the outcome and potential of civic engagement.