It seems poetic, Barack Obama finally securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, the first black to win either party’s nomination. Back when Obama was the undisputed underdog early on and even before the primaries, it seemed-dare I say-hopeful.
When he won the Iowa Caucus, that evening one of the few political pundits-one with a long track record of covering politics-dared to talk up the possibility of Obama as the party’s nominee. This is a “change election” and once a candidate becomes a credible symbol of change, the wind usually carries that person ahead to the White House, the pundit pointed out.
But political punditry aside, this particular moment is indeed historic. But it’s much more. It’s like a movie or a good novel. Today, June 5, 2008, just two days after Barack pulled off the impossible, given the odds against, is another historic day. Do you know why?
It was in a hotel lobby in Los Angeles 40 years ago today that Robert Kennedy was assassinated following the Democratic primary in June of 1968. Comparisons are often made between Barack and Bobby Kennedy, as far as their compassion, youth and idealism. They both also looked toward the future, representing change when many said change could not happen. Bobby was the last hope for many Americans, including blacks, after Dr. King was shot dead in Memphis two months earlier.
Barack is also compared to President John F. Kennedy, another young, idealistic and charismatic contender for the presidency in 1960. And Kennedy won.
When Barack gives his acceptance speech at the party’s convention in Denver on Aug. 28, he’ll be staring at another moment in history. That day will mark the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”
With all the talk of Barack not appealing to white, working-class voters and with the fiasco involving his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I hope he addresses those questions about his electability with something like this:
“What do I say to those who question whether an African American can become president? Judge me not by the color of my skin but by the content of my character.”
President Obama? It seems like this is meant to be. It’s supposed to happen. Not four years from now or maybe one day, but today. Today, so that my 75-year-old father, and 68-year-old mother-and many, many more of our elders-can see a black man elected in their lifetime. Today, so that my generation and those younger can see a black man on television for something other than going to jail or to the cemetery. Today, so that the hip-hop generation can see that a black man can accomplish more than just singing, rapping and dancing and playing sports.
But Barack, as he’s said and presented himself, is not “the black nominee.” He’s the nominee who just happens to be black. And he just happens to be the country’s best chance for a good, and maybe even a great, president.
Yes we can. Yes he will.