John Hughes, editor of ArmeniaNow, writes a moving column expressing his feelings about Barack Obama’s historic victory:

When, at 8:01 a.m. Wednesday in Yerevan, the television I’d been psychically tethered to all night announced that Barack Obama had been voted the next President of the United States, the image in my head replaced the broadcast on CNN with footage of a childhood that added relevance to the vast historicity of the moment.

Tow-headed and not yet mindful that a world existed outside the narrow one in which I toddled, I stood on a stool in an Alabama public square to drink from one of two water fountains. Turns out that the one I’d chosen for refreshment from the summer heat was marked “Colored”. Had I known, I’d have stepped to the “Whites Only” bubbler. Children don’t know. Bless them.

Laughing, pointing and notifying my parents of their youngest’ violation of custom and law my older brother and sister shamed me for reasons that still baffle me. I’d picked the fountain designated for Negroes. For me, it was just a cool drink.

In that year, the man I happily now call MY president, was born far from Alabama prejudice, and closer to the heart of whatever is right in this world whether there or here.

And when, from the home state of Abraham Lincoln, President-elect Obama addressed the divided nation I have left behind for this developing nation, his message referenced the most famous speech of his hero and mine: “. . . we will get there . . . ”

It is a speech I memorized for a high school project in public speaking, but did not practice aloud for fear that I’d be overheard in a household where Martin Luther King Jr. was a devil, and a future in which a Barack Obama fulfilling Rev. King’s vision was not only inconceivable but horrifying.

It was a world that put me at odds with every form of authority to which I was subjected, whether parent, teacher or sports coach. A minister I idolized in the church I attended told me, earning laughs from those around him: “I’m not prejudiced. I just don’t like niggers.”

It shouldn’t have surprised me, then, when tears welled in my eyes as with those on that CNN broadcast, on realizing that the America that taught me to look beyond the reality of my environment had delivered a dream for an apparently deserving servant and his beautiful and elegant family.

I watched Michelle Obama embrace Vice-President elect Joe Biden, and recalled that for most of my childhood, it was forbidden for American TV to show a white person and black person kissing.

Barack Obama is not America’s right choice because he is black. Nor is celebration of his achievement reserved only for the African-American community. Without white voters, Hispanic voters, Asian voters, Native American voters, this son of Kansas and Kenya would have been another history footnote rather than history maker.

The election of this new American president, beyond all the dangerously Pollyanna reactions to the moment (including mine), represents far more universal ideologies than race or nationality or age or gender. Profoundly simplistic, yes, the November 4 American election revived belief that should not be owned by Americans only.

Listening to Barack Obama’s graciously reserved acceptance speech, I heard a message for my new Armenian wife, whose hope of a better Armenia gets crushed again and again each time an election here goes wrong. I heard a message for my new Armenian children – about the same age as the Obama daughters:

Give democracy and human decency a chance, and a way will be found to fulfill your aspirations.

As an Alabama child I saw dogs released on those whose sacrifice made a way to Barack Obama’s stage in Chicago’s Grant Park, and watched TV coverage of white firemen blasting black protestors with blistering water hoses. In this new home of my middle age, I have seen water cannons turned on those who – for reasons other than race – sought change in this society; have heard minorities of every stripe cursed for either their color, their sexual persuasion, or their ethnicity, among these people who should know better than most the evil of ignorance-based hate.

Whether in the Alabama of my youth or in this Armenia of my current reality caught between socialism’s failures and democracy’s promises; wherever discrimination and doubt muffle the heartbeat of hope, the election of Barack Hussein Obama turns campaign jingo into a dogma that I wish these children of mine to realize, as did I, in the early Wednesday Armenia hours: “Yes. We Can”.