True, Obama referred only elliptically to his status as our first black president. He didn't talk about black people or white people. He did something simpler. He talked about "us."
This is what gave Obama's speech its power: His generous vision of an America that includes all of us, belongs to all of us, shapes and is shaped by all of us.
Speaking of the "men and women ... who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom," Obama repeated the refrain: "For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn."
"For us." With these small words, Obama invited us all to claim a past full of contradictions that can neither be resolved nor disowned but only accepted as part of that "patchwork heritage" that shapes and can strengthen us all.
I'm still getting used to having permission to dream.