Congratulations, America

It goes way beyond the election of the first African-American president, of course. It goes to a new policy in Iraq. And in Guantanamo. It goes to new regulation on Wall Street — or should that just be regulation, period? It goes to new hope for universal healthcare and environmental sanity and to a new spirit of international comity and cooperation.

But it also goes to the election of the first African-American president.

To a white boy raised to believe such a thing was not only not possible, but not desirable, a white boy nevertheless caught up as a young teenager in the dreams of the civil rights movement — only to see those dreams turn into nightmares of assasination, cities on fire, and the politics of division, whether the unvarnished race-baiting of George Wallace or the more genteel, and more dangerous, “law and order” pandering of Richard Nixon — to a white boy born the day you elected Ike, America, and who wakes up on his latest birthday 56 years later to discover you’ve elected a black man, it definitely goes to the election of the first African-American president.

So savoring tears of joy, I say congratulations, America. Congratulations, President-elect Obama. And the happiest of birthdays to me.

Birkenstock for president

The major party candidates blab about bringing America together, but now there is a footwear company that literally walks it like those guys talk it.

What began as a fun mini-campaign touting Birkenstock’s presence at the WSA trade show was so well-received it has been expanded into a national consumer print and online campaign. Judging by the flood of email feedback, the campaign is instantly gaining traction, especially as presidential marketing slips into negative mode.

While a political theme — even if it’s non-partisan and tongue-in-cheek — may seem unexpected, Birkenstock has long been assigned political connotations (e.g., the reporter’s shorthand for committed progressives, “Birkenstock-wearing liberals”). At the same time, research shows the brand is overwhelmingly associated with good feelings, which tend to start in a consumer’s previously aching feet but rapidly travel to his or her overall mood.

So perhaps it was not so far-fetched for Birkenstock’s campaign managers at Duncan/Channon to bring politics and positivity back together on behalf of this perennial candidate for your comfortable, casual choice of sandals. But, of course, we invite all Americans to vote with their feet.