Thursday, November 6, 2008 | 12:56 PM ET
By Henry Champ
Over the last few months, I wrote and reported on air many times about the importance of a Barack Obama victory to African-Americans and other minorities.
But I am embarrassed to admit I greatly underestimated that impact.
While reporting from the White House on election night, I witnessed an impromptu celebration on Pennsylvania Avenue. It happened only minutes after the American networks called the election for Obama.
You could hear shouts and yelling as a crowd of mostly young people poured down the nearby streets to the White House. It caught everyone by surprise and for the first few minutes the mood was not clear.
The Secret Service was clearly apprehensive, television crews prepared for turmoil. Instead, it was a group of people shouting and dancing and having a good time.
There were honking cars and American flags and absolutely no sign of trouble, drunkenness or violence. It was a scene that played out all through downtown Washington.
In fact, as I drove home, past the 17th street intersection that is one of Washington's major drug markets, the thugs that usually loiter there were actually waving small American flags at the cars passing by.
Tears of joy
On the television, from Chicago, Jesse Jackson, himself a former presidential candidate, had tears streaming down his face.
From Thailand, that giant of public service, Colin Powell, told an interviewer that he and his family all cried as well when Obama was named the winner.
The next day, at the State Department, Secretary Condoleezza Rice promised to help the new administration adjust to office and then, struggling to keep her composure, talked about her pride as a black woman in an Obama victory.
But it was in the parking lot of my local 7-Eleven that I really got it, really understood what this victory meant to so many people.