Friday, November 07, 2008

Ray Warren's odyssey: From Jesse Helms to Barack Obama

When I started covering the General Assembly 23 years ago, Ray Warren had just been elected to his first term in the House. He was a young Republican lawyer from Matthews swept in with the Reagan landslide of 1984.

He eventually became minority leader and in 1996, outpolled all N.C. Republicans in his losing bid for the state Supreme Court. He came out of the closet in 1998 and left his party a year later. Now, in the latest chapter of a long odyssey, he's a tax assessor's attorney in suburban Washington. Here are his observations about the election:

"Election night in Washington was surreal. My partner and I watched the returns at Nellie's, a nominally gay sports bar packed with a racially diverse gay and straight crowd. Each time a state fell into the blue column the bar - and bars up and down the U Street corridor - erupted in cheers.

"There were hundreds in the bar -- men and women of all races. When CNN announced that Obama was elected at 11:00 pandemonium broke out. We jumped shouted and hugged perfect strangers. It was like the end of World War II or some other great unifying event.

"A bit later, when Obama gave his speech in Chicago I, like many others, was in tears. All the years of Jesse Helms, hate and division had been defeated. Not only the nation, but my home state and native state (Virginia and North Carolina) had been part of the redemption.

"It was an unexpected and powerful emotional moment that overwhelmed me. Seeing my tears, a young black woman silently reached over and took my arm as if to say "it will be OK". I was struck by the immense irony of that act of simple kindness. On the most important night of the nation's history to African Americans, a young black woman was comforting me, an old white southern man, overcome with the emotion of the moment.

"As we left to catch a cab back to Virginia, the street was alive with impromptu celebrations. Horns honked, people danced in the street and there were shouts of joy. A friend texted me to say that he and hundreds were gathered in front of the White House shouting 'yes we can'. And for once, it was true. We can.

"And we did."

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

The perceived optimisism of this election cycle is so inspiring. This is first time in this president has been elected in 'our' generation. I pray that this historic moment delivers to all Americans

Anonymous said...

what did you say?

Anonymous said...

I just hope that all of you that voted for obama, will support him no matter what he does or does not do. I did not vote for him and will not support him or his family. While you get chills thinking of him be President, I get the same chills but with a different feeling. Sick. For 2 individuals who have hated this country, they do not deserve to be in the White House. You have to respect the country that you serve. And let's all remember he is serving, it is not us serving him. They are being paid to serve ALL americans. I hope they do it well

Anonymous said...

Nice job Ray.....it was never hard to figure out you played for the other team. Enjoy the ride...I'll bet you do every night.

Anonymous said...

Who is "the old white southern man" you speak of?

You are a perfect fit for DC.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least the obamas cannot say they did not know what they were getting into. The dems are responsible for majority of the financial crisis so obama should intend on having a full plate, now let's just see if he help clean it up or if he will continue to make the crisis bigger. All eyes are watching, let's see how good of an actor he really is. Oh sorry, he's not an actor he is the president.

Anonymous said...

obama is and will learn very quickly not to speak when he is totally ignorant about subjects with the first being the war. Don't promise something if you don't know all of the facts first. It is wise to become educated quickly. And he was worried about Palin. Oh my!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"The dems are responsible for majority of the financial crisis ..."

It amazes me how many republicans repeat this claim. Short-term memory I suppose, they forgot who was in control of congress from 1994-2006.

"All eyes are watching, let's see how good of an actor he really is. Oh sorry, he's not an actor he is the president."

Yeeeeeahh..... and your favorite president EVAH? Reagan? He was a what before he was president? Hmm... nevermind.

Seriously folks, let's get past this divisiveness. I know it's all we've been used to for eight years now, but we can move on. Don't get put off by the vocal minority of people like the one I quoted above. A generational change is coming to the executive branch. Let's all cheer for the new direction of our great country. That screeching you hear is from the folks that are afraid of change, but I hope they'll all eventually come around.

Anonymous said...

SO you're tired of Reps repeating this "claim?" I suppose uncomfortable truths would tire one out after a while. When Reps were in charge is irrelevant. Here's what's relevant: FNMA and FHLMC got into too much subprime lending at the behest of DEMS like Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer. Thanks Franklin Raines, too, Obama's pal. Bush and other Reps tried to LIMIT this DANGEROUS lending many times (2001, 2004, 2006) but those efforts were blocked by DEMS in the name of the "good work" that Fannie and Freddie were doing. When the defaults and foreclosures rose, those holding the securitized paper were stuck with depreciating assets no one wanted. Lending ultimately seized, even in the commercial paper markets. Those are the facts, like it or not. Every time I discuss this, DEMS either have no reply or change the subject, but never acknowledge the realities or their total IGNORANCE on the subject. DEMS blamed this on the Reps. Why? B/c Obama is among the best con artists out there. He said Hope, Change, Yes We Can, 8 years of failed policies and all that gibberish, over and over and over and over, and you bought it, putting into the WH a man who has done NOTHING but vote PRESENT, write books, and associate with commies (Ayers, Frank Marshall Davis) and terrorists (Ayers again and maybe more). This recession is NOT Bush's fault, but the DemLemmings are following their Obama Pied Piper off into the unknown. Well done. As for Reagan, yes he had been an actor but was a GOVERNOR before becoming president. He had made many DECISIONS as Gov of CA. Obama has made no DECISIONS except to run for Pres and institute a welfare system via the tax code, among other leftist garbage. Reagan understood economics and knew that lower taxes and regulation would result in a boom. And it did. I'd be very careful about implying that Obama is HALF the man Reagan was. While on historic figures, Obama is no JFK either. JFK also CUT TAXES, aiding strong growth in the 1960s. He got it, why don't today's Dems? Too busy studying psychology, anthropology, English, poli sci and not enough time on economics, finance, and business I suppose.

Anonymous said...

"All the years of Jesse Helms, hate and division had been defeated. Not only the nation, but my home state and native state (Virginia and North Carolina) had been part of the redemption."

Yes, we need to unite under one flag and our beloved leader. Just like Cuba and North Korea.

Anonymous said...

4:00pm & 6:00am Are you kidding me? The Dem's are responsible for the majority of the financial crisis & Dem's don't get it; were you sleeping thru the last election? Tell Toto I said hello on your way back to OZ....

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