Howells and Obama
New York Review of Books:
Time is on our side again, and maybe a great deal of the emotion that overtook us on 125th Street had to do with those who are no longer with us, those who did not live to see this moment. I voted with thoughts of the absent. And we now can feel we are back on the side of History. Signed, sealed, delivered—we're his, but we'd expect that President-elect Obama would know all about the misgivings that men like Henry Adams and William Tecumseh Sherman had when Abraham Lincoln first arrived in Washington. People were desperate for direction, the air reeked of war, and the new president seemed so indecisive and quiet. Young men laughed nervously in the anteroom, William Dean Howells observed, as "the great soul enter[ed] upon its travail beyond the closed door." May the spirit of Lincoln continue to guide this unexpected and already much-trusted young black man about to move his family into the White House.