In 2008, Barack Obama ran for President with the campaign slogan “Hope”. Hope means a lot of things, and there are many things to hope for, but in his recent address to the Cuban people he gave what could be considered a definition for a certain type of hope. It’s the type of hope that I have when I think about not just the future of the United States but of the whole world.
During a part of the speech where he’s discussing how democracy has enabled a higher standard of living in the United States, he says:
But just stop and consider this fact about the American campaign that’s taking place right now. You had two Cuban-Americans, in the Republican party, running against the legacy of a black man who was President, while arguing that they’re the best person to beat the Democratic nominee, who will either be a woman or a Democratic Socialist. Who would have believed that back in 1959? That’s a measure of our progress as a democracy.
He says this in the context of politics, but it’s not a stretch to interpret it as a bolder, broader statement about human progress. That in the past 50 years we’ve made magnificent, measurable improvements in our own understanding of each other. Whether it’s gay rights or civil rights or women’s rights or trans rights, we are, even if slowly, getting better at seeing each other as whole humans. Not to say that we’ve come even remotely close to an acceptable end state, but Obama’s recognition was a nice reminder of the real progress that has been made.