I was the last person to expect Barack Obama to be elected president. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been getting most of my political insight from right-wing radio and Fox News. It wasn’t like I was expecting a Republican landslide, but I thought we’d at least have a McCain squeaker.

As I listened to the attacks on Obama, I couldn’t help admiring the energy level of the junior senator from Illinois. Here he was fronting for the Palestinian Liberation Organization and devising a communist overhaul of the economy, yet still finding time to listen to racist anti-American views from the pulpit. On top of that, he was palling around with terrorists, and you know what late hours those guys keep.

Just before the election, a revelation came out that I thought would sink Obama. Fox News got a hold of a 1974 book by one of his terrorist pals that was dedicated to, among others, Sirhan Sirhan, Bobby Kennedy’s assassin. Talk about poor taste! Somehow, the American public ignored this smoking gun and elected Obama anyway.

The incident got me thinking about Bobby Kennedy, though, and it hit me that his supporters had at last gotten the president they wanted. Sirhan Sirhan may have derailed the process for 40 years but finally, a liberal Democrat running on a platform of peace and racial reconciliation had been elected.

We watched the election returns with family and friends and were amazed at how quickly a winner was chosen. I had been looking forward to another month of Fox News coverage from Florida or Ohio, but this time Americans had made an indisputable choice. We listened to McCain’s classy concession speech, all the while nervous about the gathering in Grant Park.

Call us pessimists but the last time the park hosted a big political gathering there was tear gas in the air. This time, though, the crowd was peaceful and passionate. When Obama and his family took the stage, we were emotionally blown away. During his speech, tears of happiness trickled down our cheeks.

Our kids thought this strange but they hadn’t experienced the virtual apartheid we had endured. Growing up in Oak Park, the only black person we saw on a regular basis was our cleaning lady Varna. I didn’t have black classmates until high school and I didn’t enter a black person’s home until I was in my 20s.

Thanks to the mix here in Forest Park, our kids didn’t grow up with segregation. We may have a way to go locally and nationally to erase prejudice from our society, but the election of a bi-racial president at least shows the world we’re trying.

After the election, I felt so good, I swore off right-wing reporting. I no longer cared that Obama was really born in Kenya, that he came from a corrupt political machine and promoted voter fraud. He’s president.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.