Two hundred twenty-one years ago, the Founding Fathers wrote into the U.S. Constitution that slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a human being in the representative democracy that was being born.
One hundred and forty-seven years ago, the states of the South launched the Civil War to defend the free white citizen's power to hold others in bondage.
One hundred and twelve years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws consigning blacks to "separate but equal" facilities were constitutional.
Forty years ago, a presidential candidate won the votes of 10 million Americans despite having declared, as governor of Alabama: "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
And, today, this nation - so haunted by the original sin of slavery, so riven by the torments of race and yet so dedicated to the ideal that all men are created equal - has elevated a black man to the presidency.
We are the beneficiaries of our better angels - while seeming in no small measure surprised that they have won out. The question asked time and again over the last two years has been answered:
Americans were ready after all - yes, we were - to welcome a black man to the White House.