Tonight is a particular honor for me, let's face it; my presence on stage is pretty unlikely.
My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, and went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to British.
But my grandfather had lager dreams for their son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place: America that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before.
While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world. Her father was an oil rigs and a farm worker through most of the depression. The day after Pearl Harbor, my grandfather joined Patton's army, marching across Europe.
Back home, my grandmother raised a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and later moved to west, all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity.
And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation.
They would give me an African name, Barack, or “blessed,” believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success.
They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to achieve your potential.
They are both passed away now. Yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with great pride.