today in black history

March 28, 2023

Poet Countee Cullen wins Phi Beta Kappa honors at New York University on this date in 1925.

Our Choice: OBAMA

POSTED: October 19, 2008, 12:00 pm

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America is in trouble.

We are engaged in an unjust war in Iraq that has drained our nation financially, cost the lives of tens of thousands of our troops and Iraqi civilians, and diminished our standing in the world community. And the distraction of Iraq has allowed the perpetrator of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack to remain free to taunt us at will. Our economy is in shambles as we have pursued free trade to the extent that job and industry losses are at the point of no return, our credit system is in shambles, the mortgage market is in crisis due to the greed of lenders who recklessly pushed risky loan instruments upon vulnerable prospective homebuyers, and commercial banks are now leaning upon the federal government to remain solvent.

For almost two years now our attention has been drawn to the individuals who seek the White House. With the sitting incumbent facing historically low approval ratings, this presidential election offers a clean break from the Bush administration and provides a path to restore our dignity among nations. We have witnessed a parade of candidates, all of whom professed a deep commitment to our nation, its ideals, and values, and each, in their own way, a calling to public service. As the campaign calendar progressed, and the field narrowed, the sense of urgency increased as it became evident that with each passing day our nation was sinking further into the abyss. No longer just a matter of electing a President, under normal circumstances a responsibility of great magnitude, the 2008 election has become a referendum on our future.

There is only one candidate who impresses us as able to rise to the challenge, who has the intellectual capacity, perspective and idealism to boldly lead this nation and who can restore our reputation on the international stage. His name is Senator Barack Obama and we strongly endorse his election as the next President of the United States.

Few of us could have imagined that a Black candidate would be poised to capture the White House in 2008. It is the most improbable of developments given that two decades have passed since Rev. Jesse Jackson made his historic bid for the Oval Office. Much has changed since 1988, including the election of a new generation of post-civil rights Black elected officials to state legislatures, City Halls, and Congress. We have also witnessed a generation of young, white Americans who have no institutional memory of Jim Crow, have lived and been educated with Blacks, and have made a cultural connection to our community through music and art. The Black community has also changed. We are more middle class and have migrated back to the south in large numbers. So, before Senator Obama pronounced “change” as the motivating agent for his campaign, change was already underway.

Senator Obama has eloquently made his case for election and demonstrated his command of the issues. His early opposition to the war in Iraq was an early indication of his willingness to stand on principle without fear of the political repercussions. His has been a constant voice of sanity in a chaotic chorus of war hawks, willing to challenge the very notion of “patriotism” against the reflexive flag waving that consumed our nation in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Senator Obama had the courage to stand by his critique of Iraq throughout the campaign season, and properly used his bully pulpit to call attention to Afghanistan.

Likewise, Senator Obama was courageous in taking the position that he would be willing to talk to any world leader, even those whose politics run counter to our own. It was a bold pronouncement that sent the right message to the international community. For too long now the United States has positioned itself on a perch looking down upon the rest of the world, creating ill will and putting our nation at a real disadvantage in the 21st century global marketplace. The criticism of Senator Obama for taking this position was symbolic of the failed approach of the current administration, from its policy in Iraq to its bungling of the situation in the Middle East. Speaking of which, Senator Obama has deftly handled the “third wire” of Democratic politics – Israel – and we are hopeful that under his leadership in the White House we will witness an equitable solution that provides sovereignty for the Palestinian people. We also hold out hope that an Obama administration will play an active role in improving conditions in sub-Saharan Africa and will demonstrate its commitment to the continent through a sizeable increase in foreign aid to those nations supportive of democratic rule and governments committed to human rights in practice.

Throughout this campaign “race” has overshadowed consideration of Senator Obama’s qualifications to serve. Confronted by racial hysteria in the form of questions regarding his faith, criticism of his former pastor, and rumors concerning his nationality, he boldly “called the question” in a moving speech in Philadelphia that will be remembered as a seminal moment in the 2008 campaign. Now with just weeks left until Election Day, race has once again been injected into the campaign as supporters of Senator John McCain have revived the ugliness that we thought had been buried since the demise of Jim Crow. Through it all Senator Obama has demonstrated a grace that is to be commended.

Speaking of Senator McCain; his has been a campaign of missed opportunity that has become mired in the trivial. The tone of his campaign over the last two weeks has been disappointing to say the least. And his lack of leadership in confronting and addressing his angry mob of a campaign rally was inexcusable. As was his attempt to twist the subject during the last debate at Hofstra University. Rather than be a man and take responsibility for the vicious and violent taunts of Senator Obama by his supporters, Senator McCain made a cowardly retreat and feigned insult over a remark by Congressman John Lewis that was true to its core. In that one moment, John McCain demonstrated he is not worthy of serving in the White House. We shudder to think of what a McCain presidency would mean for civil rights.

As we face the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, our nation is need of leadership that is decisive and confident in the steps it takes to restore our economy. We believe that Senator Obama is just that leader. As financial firms faced bankruptcy and the mortgage market in collapse, he took the risky step of supporting President Bush’s bailout plan and, unlike his opponent, did not seek to score political points. He also recently proposed a reasonable recovery package that deserves consideration. Equally important is that Senator Obama will provide a calm and reassuring voice at a time when many Americans are expectedly anxious and fearful of what the future has in store.

Senator Barack Obama is the right person, at the right time. Though we fully expect that, if elected, there will be moments when we disagree with his policy choices; we are confident that he will act in the best interest of our nation and be conscious of his unique status as our nation’s first Black President. We strongly urge you to cast your vote for Senator Barack Obama on November 4. It will be a tribute to our ancestors, an honor for us, and a gift to our children.

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