Obama#8217;s win a sign of America#8217;s greatness

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2008

When observed from a distance America’s version of democracy often looks confusing.

We argue; we lie and smear our opponents shamefully; we drift from our foundations in ways that make people around the world wonder if America truly is the Shining Light upon the Hill.

But this week the American form of democracy shined brightly.

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The victory for Barack Obama, who as of this past Tuesday is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, is also a milestone for a nation that has had a complicated past with race and ethnicity.

Forty-five years ago this fall Dr. Martin Luther King came to Washington D.C., to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and delivered one of the most eloquent and significant speeches in American history. Dr. King laid claim to the American Dream for all Americans, a dream enshrined in our constitution, that each American might be measured “by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

At that time, so recently, the struggle for equality, the desire for fairness, was shaped by discrimination, segregation, and overt racism. This week, an African American, who may well have been denied a hotel room in Washington to stay overnight to hear the speech of Dr. King 45 years ago, won the nomination for president of the United States.

And he won it running against a strong competitor in Hillary Clinton, who was trying to become the first woman to be president in this campaign of firsts.

As a nation we have traveled a great distance in the last half century in terms of race relations and tolerance for those who are different from ourselves. When Dr. King shared his dream, it seemed unlikely that it could be realized within a lifetime.

And, to be fair, there remain inequities of race in America, challenges still to be overcome. There will be American voters who will not vote for Obama simply because of the color of his skin.

But there will be many voters who will examine him on the merit of his ideas and the content of his character in making their choice for president this fall. And that is what makes America the model for democracy in the world, the greatness that shines through when Americans look to visions of our future and ideas that bring change we so much need.

This fall America will choose a president from two qualified candidates whose stories and lives bring them to their nation ready to serve. John McCain, a war hero and the son and grandson of American Navy Admirals, a four-term senator who has served his country with distinction.

And Barack Obama, half African American, have white American, a child of a broken family raised by his grandparents, and educated in America’s best schools. Obama was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law review, a community developer, and an Illinois senator.

McCain and Obama will give America two distinct visions of our future. Obama the liberal senator, McCain the more conservative candidate. Obama the younger man, an inspirational speaker, and McCain the seasoned, experienced candidate who thrives in casual settings. They will offer us very different styles of leadership and visions of our future.

The Bush years have left America hoping to re-capture our greatness. Perhaps one of these good men will help us re-discover the vision of the Shining Light upon the Hill. They have already demonstrated the vibrancy of our democracy.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Ironton Tribune.