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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Today, I'm a very proud American. Last night, our country stood up and sent a clear message that a change is going to come. The whole world was watching. This change sprang out from the youngest voters, driven by hope and hard work. They wanted to help define the kind of country they want to live in. Barack Obama owes much to America's youth for standing up and being counted. And he knew it. You could feel the electrifying excitement from the crowds in Grant Park, Chicago.

Forty years ago, Grant Park was the site of another important political change. It was the summer of ‘68. The country was embroiled in an unwinnable war. Over half a million Americans had served in Vietnam and already 30,000 had been killed. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had both just been assassinated. But in 1968, music was also the inspiration for young people. The Doors, Pete Seeger, Country Joe and the Fish, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan -- all of them and many more openly recorded songs against the war.

So when 10,000 young people descended on Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention to protest the war, America changed. The mayor of Chicago, refusing to allow demonstrations on his watch, organized 23,000 police and National Guard. The result was a riot, televised throughout the world, showing America's brutality on the voice of youthful dissent. And within nine months, over two million people were protesting the war throughout America.

The 1968 antiwar movement was driven by pain, forged by anger, and fortified by some of music's greatest icons. In contrast, Obama's win last night was driven a country frustrated with governmental stalemates: global disputes, our failing economy, an energy crisis, environmental sustainability and the basic welfare of our people. Americans are not just hoping to stop a war. We are hoping to regain our core values and restore a sense of fairness and calm.

So far, music has played the supporting role, in this journey. I can't figure out where most of our poets and songwriters stand. Their message is not nearly as clear as before. Hopefully, with the strength of the American people standing with Barack Obama, our creative leadership will step up to keep the dream alive.

We have the gift. Now we just need the will to change.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.


Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

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