Sometimes the world is not changed
Till the right person appears who can
Change it. But the right person is also
In a way the right time. For the time
And the person have to work
The secret alchemy together.
But to change the world is more than
Changing its laws. Sometimes it is just
Being a new possibility, a portal
Through which new fire can enter
This world of foolishness and error.
They change the world best who
Change the way people think.
For it is our thoughts that make
Our world. Some think it is our deeds;
But deeds are the children of thought.
The thought-changers are the game-changers,
Are the life-changers.
We think that achievements are symbols.
But symbols are not symbols.
Obama is not a mere symbol.
Sometimes even a symbol is a sign
That we are not dreaming potently
Enough. A sign that the world is the home
Of possibility. A sign that our chains
Are unreal. That we are freer than we
Know, that we are more powerful than
We dare to think. If he is a symbol at all,
Then he is a symbol of our possible liberation.
A symbol also that power in this world
Cannot do everything. Even Moses could
Not set his people free. They too had to
Wander in the wilderness. They too turned
Against their leaders and their God
And had to overcome much in their
Make up and their history to arrive
At the vision their prophets had long before.
Being a black president is not a magic wand
That will make all black problems disappear.
Leaders cannot undo all the evils that
Structural evils make natural in the life
Of a people. Not just leadership, but
Structures must change. Structures of thought
Structures of dreams structures of injustice
Structures that keep a people imprisoned
To the stones and the dust and the ash
And the dirt and the dry earth and the dead
Roads. Always we look to our leaders
To change what we ourselves must change
With the force of our voices and the force
Of our souls and the strength of our dreams
And the clarity of our visions and the strong
Work of our hands. Too often we get fixated
On symbols. We think fame ought to promote
Our cause, that presidents ought to change our
Destinies, that more black faces on television
Would somehow make life easier and more just
For our people. But symbols ought to only be
A sign to us that the power is in our hands.
Mandela ought to be a sign to us that we cannot
Be kept down, that we are self-liberating.
And Obama ought to be a sign to us that
There is no destiny in colour. There is only
Destiny in our will and our dreams and the storms
Our “noes” can unleash and the wonder our “yesses”
Can create. But we have to do the work ourselves
To change the structures so…
Read the complete poem at The Guardian – Barack Obama: a celebration in verse