The beauty of living to be my age and still having clear vision is that it allows me to look back and see how far we’ve come. Yet even if we live to be 100, we can scarcely perceive the magnitude of our progress as a country.
But North Carolina, I tell you: we have progressed.
I once debated with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about whether an African American would ever be elected president. He believed it would happen within the next 40 years at the time; I believed it would
never happen within my lifetime. I have never been happier to have been proven wrong.
And since Barack Obama’s historic election, under unforgiving economic circumstances and in the face of the unyielding opposition once in office, we have made remarkable progress as a country, together.
In 2008, we helped President Obama win North Carolina by just 14,000 votes—just five votes per precinct. Every one of us can think of five people whose vote could have meant the difference. And believe it or not, this year will be even closer. So there is no time for complacency. We must make our voices heard.
Just imagine waking up the day after the election, knowing that you did not register and did not vote and the progress we’ve made slipped through our fingertips. You’d kick yourself. You’d bang your head against the wall. Let me spare you that self-admonition.
From the Winston-Salem Journal Op-Ed Page. For the full column, click here.
Maya Angelou is a poet and activist who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This column originally appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal.