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November 5th, 2008
03:35 PM ET

The Joshua Generation

David Gergen
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

I went back to look at the last speech that Martin Luther King gave in 1968, the day before he was assassinated.

King said, “I just want to do God's will. He's allowed me to go up to the mountain and I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promise land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight we as a people will get to the promise land.”

It seems to me that for an awful lot of people in this country, especially for African Americans, Barack Obama has said that he's part of the Joshua Generation. Martin Luther King was our Moses. We haven't ended our prejudice, but there's something about this evening and election that has made an awful lot of people feel this is the Joshua Generation, we can do something we thought we could never reach 30, 40, 50 years ago.

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Ken H

    I'm a 57-year old fiscal conservative (read economic liberal, in the Adam Smith sense) who has been disappointed my whole life with both political parties. For while I'm a fiscal conservative, I've also always felt more a kindred spirit with socially liberal causes (read "individual liberty and freedom").

    I don't think I'm very unusual. I think many moderate Republicans and most Independents, and even a good many moderate Democrats, share my views – free market economic conservatism blended with the social liberalism of tolerance, pluralism and support for all.

    I voted for Obama in the spirit of hope and change, but still harbor concerns over taxation, big government, and the potential for sapping the American "can do" entrepreneurial spirit. With all that said, Obama's calm, values-based, visionary leadership offers the best opportunity for America to regain respect around the world, unity within our borders, and health to our economy and society.

    November 6, 2008 at 11:33 am |
  2. J White

    As thrilled as I am that Barack Obama was elected I am also very frustrated. All you hear is that we have a black president but is everyone forgetting he was raised by a white mother and grandparents. The same people who are jumping for joy over this election look at my family with disgust. My children are called oreos and mutts and zebras. Black women give me dirty looks and have accused me of stealing their men. I am white by the way married to a black man with 3 beautiful BIRACIAL children. Anyone who thinks racial issues were helped by this amazing man being elected are kidding themselves. Have respect for each other and stop teaching your children to hate.

    November 6, 2008 at 11:25 am |
  3. Ed & Kathy

    Obama has no executive experience at any level of government; city, county, state, or federal. He does not have executive experience as an officer in the military in charge of other men and women serving our country. Obama has run nothing except his political campaign. Obama has no accomplishments; no major legislation. In Audacity of Hope, Obama admits that Reverend Wright was his mentor. The title of his book stemmed from a Wright sermon. Obama attended Wright's church for over twenty years.

    This election gives us a great deal of insight into the electorate's decision making process.

    It is important that so many millions of voters feel good about electing a black man to be our President.

    We support President Obama and hope he is successful.

    November 6, 2008 at 11:21 am |
  4. Aaron

    I completely agree that President Elect Obama is part of the Joshua generation. The Moses generation was the Civil Rights Generation. Obama is part of the Joshua generation and the amaerican people have demonstrated that they are on board and willing to get us where we need to go. YES WE CAN

    November 6, 2008 at 10:51 am |
  5. Kevin

    I disagree with Gergan's comment on AC 360 that in the next 3 months Obama is going to have to deal with more hard econimic issues to come over the next three months....yes they are presursors.....Bush is still president until January 20 and it is Bush that got this country into this economic mess that president elect Obama will inherit. ..don't pass the buck too soon Gergan ..Bush needs to do what he can now to help the economy and to ensure the smooth transition he promissed including dealing with the economy over these next three months to make it eaier for Obama to succeed!!!

    November 6, 2008 at 1:25 am |
  6. Jeflyn T Texas

    The day after , has anyone bothered to talk to any black students on majority white campuses in the south. My daughter just called an said at her 18% black campus there has been radial aggression. As she walked to class the morning of the election she noticed a rope over a tree , but in denial and her mind occupied with voting for Mr. Obama she blew it off. Well today that was in the college newspaper "The Lariat, today a picture of the noose. Also there have been multiple incidences of white students yelling out racial epitates, Black male students being taunted into verbal battles outside of Penland hall. Yes , at Baylor university, Waco , Texas, a religious university based on christian principles and an enormous tuition. How I wonder can this be happening in 2008 after the election of such a great man. It is late so I have to wait until tomorrow to contact the school officials. I had to say to my daughter , what ever you do do not go out by yourself at night , like when we were younger and had to watch out for the clan. I just wonder if Texas a red state if all these large predominetly white institution are experiencing this same unruley behavior. She said to meMommy i cannot beleive some of the things I have read in facebook, and that this historic event is causing people to act this way.Mommy , I just wonder if they are trying to make the 18% of us to transfer out. All I could say was please make sure you walk wih others and don't go out at night.I am tonight a very frightened mother waiting until morning to make that call.

    November 6, 2008 at 1:24 am |
  7. Beckie

    David Gergen, you are wonderful. Thank you for being the voice of reason during this entire campaign. I do not know what I will do now without a daily "Gergen fix".

    November 5, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  8. Claudia, CT

    David Gergen,

    After Obama was named the elected-president, you spoke about Martin Luther King’s last speech quoting the words above and you rendered me speechless. My whole family watching CNN with me quietly reflected on those points and tears swelled up. I agree we as a country are not done healing the divide of prejudice but I also believe we are heading in the right direction. As a 24-year-old Hispanic woman raised in the U.S since the age of four I feel in love with the possibilities this great country has to offers. Barack Obama’s win is the long awaited, and sometimes though impossibility that needed to occur. I know my nieces and nephews will live to see a better America because of yesterday’s historic event. Your commentary throughout this election has been amazing; along with your ability to remain unbiased while, other commentators have not.

    November 5, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  9. Mike, Syracuse NY

    I guess I don't understand why people are saying race didn't matter in this election. Race decided the election. Obama got 43% of the white vote, more than Kerry did. Pretty impartial voting. He got 96% of the black vote. More than Kerry, Gore or Clinton got by a significant margin. If the black vote had replicated what happened in the last 4 elections, many states that went Obama would have gone McCain. Even Bush got 10% of the black vote. Sorry to burst the bubble, but race was a major factor in this election.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:42 pm |
  10. Kathy, Chicago

    The local news talked today about how lucky Obama has been. Things have just fallen into place starting with his rise to the State Senate. I hope it was luck and not unnamed sources pulling strings, as Chicago Politics tends to be. The local politicians are licking their chops for all of the graft, pork, and bills that will be passed in their direction with Obama in the White House. I don't think that that is the change the country is looking for!

    November 5, 2008 at 8:31 pm |
  11. Larry

    Re: Cindy/Ga. What the backlash your getting is from the same people who held no love for HRC and even booed her. All they know about obama is his skin color, nothing of who he really is. Obama is no Martin Luther King Jr.

    Obama is genealogically & DNA scientifically 43.75% Arab, 6.25% African and 50% caucasian. Since African Americans are into percentages then they have that to work with. Now you know why the Arab world is so keen on his election as the 1st Arab-American POTUS.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  12. Annie Kate

    Its not often that you know that something you witnessed will be talked about in the history books years from now as a watershed event in America's history. Last night was one and I felt very privileged to have been a part of it.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 5, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  13. Erica

    @ Mary, as a young black american, I don't refer to myself as African-American, that is a label that was given to me by the society that I live in. While I understand the point that you are making, and agree with it completely (we are all americans and are in this together), it is important for you to understand that it is not always us that have a separatist attitude and label ourselves. We are not the only minority group in America that is referred to in a hyphenated manner. In fact, caucasians (of any descent), are the only individuals that I have seen that are not referred to in some hyphenated form. Asian Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans are all terms used in this society to refer to people of minority cultures and races. The problem is not just with blacks, but with the society as a whole.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:03 pm |
  14. Jamael Sanford

    David, you definately have a phenomenal gift of insight and analysis that I have a great appreciation and respect for your opinion. Whenever you speak my ears perk up. Hope to see your experience called upon and utilized in this upcoming presidental term.

    As a 30 year old black male, husband and father of three from Chicago, I hope, out of all this, in what I call the "Tiger Woods effect" whereas all of a sudden you found record numbers of blacks on the golf course after Tiger took stage, in part because seeing is beleiving. I only hope to find many young black males to be inspired by Barack Obama in that same fashion. It will do your country well. This election is in no way the end all to racism but can be a great catalist for further improvement.

    November 5, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  15. Carol Ann...Colorado

    I am a Republican and voted for McCain, but I will proudly support, and also criticize when necessary, this new president, Obama. I am proud to live in a country of immense diversity and enough egalitarism to elect a black president after so many centuries of their struggle for equality.

    A black Republican would have been my first choice, but I anticipate a new effort in Washington to work under a unified effort of bi-partisan teamwork. I listened to Nancy Pelosi's speech today and she alluded to that type of direction.We can only hope she maintains that focus.

    I believe the office of the Presidency of the United States of America is as venerable a position as can be attained anywhere in the world and congratulate Obama on his hard earned victory.

    November 5, 2008 at 7:43 pm |
  16. Sandi from Ada

    Last night, I knew I was in a rare moment, a time in history, for the first time in my life.

    Last night, I cried.

    Last night, I had a genuine trust, confidence, and sense of ownership in my country.

    Last night, I felt protective of, and protected by, a politician.

    Last night, I watched TV in my living room in suburban Ada, Michigan. My nine year old son, was sleeping with his head on my lap. And I nudged him awake and I yelled, “Wake up! Wake up!…He’s going to win! C’mon baby, you have to see this!

    Last night, Barack Obama became the President Elect of the United States of America. And I will never ever forget it.

    November 5, 2008 at 7:18 pm |
  17. Mary Steffens

    Don't forget that Barack Obama is half "white." Remember in his speech he said we are all Americans. So, now will our Americans of African descent please stop calling themselves "African-Americans" and be proud of their heritage without hyphenating themselves? I don't go around calling myself English-Irish-French-German-Scots-American, just because I am all white. As a senior (73) female, I truly appreciate this amazing young man. He gives hope to so many of us.

    November 5, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  18. Marilyn

    I don't know if anyone cares about my stats now, but I am 52, white, female, catholic, college graduate , wife and mother from PA and I was firmly "for" Obama from the beginning of the primaries. But, for 21 months, right up until the end of the Acceptance speech last night, I was nervous and apprehensive about the candidates, the process and the country. Until Obama noticed Joe Biden's mother standing on the stage amidst the commotion, appearing lost among all the candidates' family members. Obama checked with Joe, then led Joe and his Mother to front center stage. Barack Obama was just elected the next President of the United States and he certainly didn't need any more votes. This is a man who thinks first of others. The simple act of acknowledging Mrs. Biden was a sign of respect for not only her, but his Vice-President Elect and his own deceased Mother and Grandmother. He's African American? Oh, I hadn't noticed. I wanted Obama for President because he is a smart, thoughtful man. Now I know that he is also decent and good. Our country will be just fine.......

    November 5, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  19. BJA

    I just want to thank Mr. Gergin for his measured and insightful commenteries during this long political process. I came to depend on his analysis and input;

    November 5, 2008 at 6:55 pm |
  20. Nate

    Independent conservative....first time blogger. I have never felt the kind of inspiration from a politician during my lifetime that Barack Obama has conveyed over the past 6 or 8 months. With that inspiration I see the beginnings of tremendous leadership potential the likes of which this country has not seen in generations.

    Although I am only 24 my experiences as a history major have taught me to see the glaring opportunity before us at present. Open a history text and educate yourselves on what this country is capable of when we rallie around a good LEADER and a cause.

    I don't know if he will be a great president....but the glimpses of greatness are definitive. And the possibilities.....exciting.

    November 5, 2008 at 6:53 pm |
  21. ,Barbara-Dalton Ga

    David, I am glad this election is over and I am glad Obama was the
    winner. I am white and want to just add that King's voice was the
    voice of all minorities, women owe alot to the civil rights movement.
    Maybe in a few years we will see the first woman president.

    I hope you continue to appear on 360, I respect your opinions and
    see you as a real gentlemen. You always show respect to all
    sides when you comment, 360 is lucky to have you.

    November 5, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  22. caucasoid, masculus, 53yrs, Lousiana

    All my life I have waited to see what Jesus spoke of. This election is the closest expression of fairness that I’ve seen. For the masses to overwhelm the powerful gives me peace in my heart. God has truly blessed America and in turn the world as a whole. I pray evil does not undo our positive possibility given to us by the vote. True democracy. The diversity of our nation along with the energy of our people can overcome all obstacles facing the human race. May we all come together as Americans and tackle the challenges we must face together to save our species and the beautiful creation of God.

    November 5, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  23. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    @ CINDY, please look at the numbers and the fact of the demographics that voted for Barack Obama! You are just bitter and a typical far-right person who refuses to SEE the TRUTH.

    Not only did President-elect Obama wins 349 electoral votes, but he won a LARGE portion of the popular vote! Which is indeed a clear mandate from the American people!

    FYI I DO NOT HATE BUSH. Bush lied, Bush's presidency was and is a failure. That's one of many reasons I voted for Obama!

    Mr. Gergen, we have always enjoyed your brilliant commentary. We loved that you quoted Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., last night! Very touching!

    I believe, as many do, that last night America rejected the vile politics of the ultra-conservatives! We are a moderate people, we are a fair-minded people. The Republicans do not understand that they will not win with lies, hate, fear and division! We reject them.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  24. susan

    Thank you, David. Well said. For that moment last night, watching CNN, looking out at the faces of all of the people gathered throughout the country, I thought I too saw the promise land, or at least it was within our reach. What a night! Thank you for your wonderful commentary, and the entire CNN team for a job very well done!

    November 5, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  25. Kristien,Antwerp, Belgium

    Cindy...Ga: move on please!
    Obama won and that means that your guy lost. There's nothing you can do about it anymore.
    Accept it please, instead of force-feeding everyone your interpretation of the facts. Thank you

    November 5, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  26. Joanne, Syracuse, NY

    To Cindy, GA.

    I did not vote for Obama because I hate Bush. I do indeed "like" Obama. I did not vote for him because of his race. Actually Obama is not just one race. I do not believe that the electoral college map was as important as the new media's popular vote map because we now see, where there is red..the prejudice lies.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  27. Mz Leah

    Mr. Gergen,

    As a black 53 yr. old black woman I must not neglect to tell you how I appreciate your well-reasoned, well-delivered, consistent commentary.
    I listen to you and I hope that Mr. Obama will see the wisdom of having someone on board like you, having worked for both parties with exceptional integrity.
    Thanks & thanks again.

    Leah
    Oakland, CA

    November 5, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  28. Celia McKoy

    No need to be mean-spirited Cindy of Ga. This is wonderful for the world and you and yours can't ruin it. God bless the Obamas and God bless America.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  29. Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    David: I saw you on Oprah today. What an honor to be on her show as someone she's been following and listening to. When she said she was "unleashed" she wasn't kidding!. I have to admit, your comments did make me think about that "energy" that Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to create whenever he spoke. It was refreshing to see so many Americans showing such "emotion" and "passion" last night. Witnessing history is kind of a cool feeling, isn't it?

    November 5, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  30. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Thank you David Gergen for being a calm, solid voice of reason. No matter who your candidate of choice was, I think we could all agree that you were steady and fair. Something that was missing from others all too often. Hopefully, at the end of the day, we will realize that we're in this big globe together and act accordingly.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  31. Jim, Ca.

    David- we are not the Joshua Generation, But the Omega Generation.
    All is as it was prophesied- There will be a one world Government,The mark of the Beast,Gods Trumpet,Bowl & Vial Judgements will fall.
    What are the rich & powerfull going to do when their cup of iniquity is full
    & God in his rightous judgement gives them their just reward?

    November 5, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  32. Sharon, LA, CA

    Hey Cindy,

    Get over it. You sound like a spoiled child having a temper tantrum.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  33. Suz

    I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to your commentary David Gergen. You have a level head and I respect your political opinions. I have been watching CNN mainly because your analysis of the election. Thank you for your input on everything!

    You said that Obama is discliplined, though he has an uphill climb, and I am hoping that his ability allows our country to move forward. I think he will be a fair, solid president who takes this country in a new direction. He is not unrealistic that it can be done at the snap of his fingers. His speech last night was so motivating and I hope that this motivation lasts.

    Thank you again for your commentary all along!

    November 5, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  34. David

    If Barack Obama is as smart as we all know he is, David Gergen will be advising another US President. Clear headed, thoughtful, informed, thought-provoking and HELPFUL insights. Thank you, David.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  35. Reggie, Fontana, CA

    David, I very much enjoy listening to your perspective on CNN; they are always honest, balanced, thoughtful and very insightful. Its no surprise that presidents on both sides of the aisle would seek out your advice and perspective.

    Because of the election, I too have been reviewing Dr. King's speeches as of late and agree that while Dr. King didn't live to see this day, it was his life of courage and sacrifice that made today possible.

    It would be a dishonor to Dr. King if so many who are now able to enjoy President Obama's accomplishment failed to realize that it was Dr. King that laid the cobblestones that paved the way for Obama to run on...

    Keep up the good work

    Reggie

    November 5, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  36. Randy Hensley

    Well said Mr. Gergen. The CNN commentary post election was all very thoughtful and in my opinion served to put a stamp on the event in my memory.

    As a white man who has lived in Memphis, TN my whole life, this election is indeed historic.

    Although my state went for McCain, the county went to Obama! Maybe, just maybe this means we have crested that mountain top and are a step closer to the promise land MLK spoke of.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  37. Cindy

    Obama winning this election was all about Bush and the economy. Almost half of America voted against him. Then of the ones who voted for him half of those only did so because they hated Bush and the economic mess. They didn't even like Obama. That was proven by your CNN exit polls. So Obama didn't do anything spectacular. Anyone would have won who was running as a dem.

    Cindy...Ga.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:05 pm |
  38. Howard S.

    For the record, this is the first time I have ever felt compelled to write a comment following someone's blog entry.

    This time is different because I'm compelled to thank David for the countless hours of informed, eloquent, and educational insight he provided on CNN throughout the campaign. My wife and I came to look forward to David's appearances so much, that it became a letdown to learn when he was unavailable for a specific show.

    Best of luck for a terrific Holiday season and get some rest....you deserve it.

    – Howard S., NYC

    November 5, 2008 at 4:03 pm |
  39. Max

    I hate GENERATION labels ... they cause further POLARIZATION in our societies ... as CATCHY as they sound to MEDIA types.

    But everyone LIKES your COMMENTARY!!!!

    November 5, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  40. carmen

    And a lot of people around the world feel the same as well, David. In the words of another great individual " no man is an island"

    November 5, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  41. pati mc., camp hill, pa

    Well said Mr. Gergen, as always.

    I went back and listened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,s famous "I have a dream" speech today and I have to say that I shed many tears. His dream, his beautiful dream is becoming a reality and we can all have a hand in it. There is no prouder moment!

    More than anything in my life, I pray that this amazing (and long oerdue) history that we have made truly brings us all together and once and for all puts race as an issue to bed. It will not happen overnight, surely, but we all know that good things take time.

    Thank you for your gracious post.

    November 5, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  42. Anthony

    I don't care what you call it, I'm just happy it happened with this African-American at this time. Every report from around the world suggest that the very fact that America was able to elect him has moved mountains in the area of undoing the damage to our image done by the Bush administration.

    November 5, 2008 at 3:43 pm |