Obama ’08
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

It happened this way. At a town hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, Obama responded to a young heckler who took him to task for supposedly not doing enough for black people. After detailing specific actions he’s taken, he ended by saying, “The only way we’re going to be able to solve our problems in this country is if all of us come together: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, old, young, disabled, gay, straight.” DISABLED? Did he really say “disabled”?

He did—and all of a sudden I understood why it had meant so much to a friend with multiple sclerosis some years ago when Jesse Jackson had a silver stripe—for chrome wheelchairs—included in his rainbow. Howard kept saying, “He knows we’re out here, he knows we’re out here.”

Now I knew what he meant, because Obama was talking about me. I matter. People like me matter to the possible future President of the United States.

And today, as I kept reciting the list, which I’ve memorized like a mantra, I realized it’s not just a list of the excluded or the marginalized. More important it’s a list of the people who belong, who have to be counted—and that includes disabled people.

It’s been hard to come out, as it were, as a disabled person, despite the fact of that disability being so very obvious. But if Barack Obama knows me well enough to make me cry, I might as well “stand up” and be counted.

I think they were tears of joy.

Note: The photograph “Obama ’08” appears in my photostream at Flickr.com.