No More Excuses

Who among us–especially those of my generation–ever dared believe that an American of African heritage would ascend to the highest office in the land in our lifetime? Who among us ever imagined that people around the world would ever use the words “Barack Obama” and “president-elect” in the same sentence? I don’t mind telling you, I’ve been reveling in President-elect Obama’s victory since that unforgettable night of Nov. 4, 2008. I believed in his historic candidacy from the start and worked day and night during the months leading up to Election Day to help realize it. And, if anything, like millions of other Americans, my excitement and sense of joyful anticipation has only increased in the months leading to Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America.

This election year has culminated in a triumph that belongs to every American, and it must be clearly understood by all of us that Obama was elected to be the president of all the people of our nation, not just black Americans. The challenges awaiting our president-elect–ranging from our critically damaged economy to the security of our nation against the global threat of terrorism–are serious issues that must be resolved for the greater good of all Americans. When Obama takes the oath of office in a few short weeks, he will face expectations above and beyond anything ever demanded of the heroic black leaders–from Frederick Douglass to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–of our history to date.

Nevertheless, few would deny that when Obama is inaugurated it will be an indelible moment made possible by every African American who ever refused to accept the diminished roles once ascribed to us. It belongs to every African American who put asunder the restrictive bonds of racism, injustice, and inequality to defy the odds and achieve something lasting and great. This historic moment belongs to every African American over the centuries who earned recognition and distinction in business and science, in athletics and public service, in law and medicine, in education and the arts, in every area of endeavor–who regarded the limitation established by others not as an impenetrable ceiling but as the next floor, yet another level of achievement upon which to build.

But let us be clear: the presidential inauguration of Obama is not just about one, world-changing moment. For African Americans, it marks the birth of a new movement, one with a simple defining creed: No more excuses. To our young black men, too many of whom have been allowed to embrace the sin of low expectation: No more excuses. To black professionals lamenting racism on the job while worshiping daily at the altar of personal mediocrity: No more excuses. To those obsessed with the trappings of wealth, yet who refuse to invest in their own financial education or to exercise fiscal discipline: No more excuses. To those who complain about the ills of our community, yet who are unwilling to invest their