It hardly seems possible that the marathon presidential campaign is in the home stretch. A campaign that has now covered the better part of two years has left the nation with two candidates: Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, both members of the United States Senate.
While Senator McCain was fully expected to be in the running for his party’s nomination, despite some starts and stops; no one could have imagined that Senator Barack Obama would be standing on the stage of the final debate as his party’s nominee. We were present on the floor of the then Fleet Center in Boston four years ago, covering the Democratic National Convention, when a young candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois spoke from the podium and became a household name. Still, it was inconceivable then that he would defy all conventional wisdom, overtake Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the individual most expected would be the Democratic nominee in 2008, and shatter all fundraising records in the process.
With the issue of race hovering over this campaign from the day Senator Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois; it has been an emotional journey for Black Americans. For certain the campaigns of the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson injected a sense of pride in our community that will never be forgotten and for which we owe both of them a tremendous debt of gratitude. Let’s be clear, we would not be witnessing what we are today in the candidacy of Senator Obama had not those warriors did what they did in 1972, 1984 and 1988.
Still, there is no denying that Senator Obama’s ascendancy has been remarkable and seems touched by destiny. As he meets his challenger for Wednesday night’s debate, 400 years of American history will be stirring on that stage. Is it coincidence that the first Black person to be poised to become President carries an African surname? Is it coincidence that he is the product of a biracial union in a country with a history of racial division? We don’t subscribe these facts to happenstance. Forty years after Blacks converged on the nation’s capital to demand civil rights, a Black American could well be on his way to becoming the leader of what is still, despite its current economic problems, the acknowledged world’s superpower.
So, as Senator Barack Obama steps to his podium, take a moment and relish what we are witnessing. If your children are not in bed, allow them to watch the opening minutes of the debate. And explain to them just what this means. Many of us who are old enough to remember the tears our parents shed, as well as our own, on April 4, 1968 and just two months later in June of that fateful year, will be filled with pride and overcome with emotion as we witness the embodiment of our ancestors lives and the realization of a dream that they could never had dreamt. We will recall grandparents and parents who have passed on, and understand more fully their prayers for a better day. Tell your children the story. Our story.