Editorial: Obama an agent of change

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Barack Obama has based his presidential campaign on the need for America to change, to refrain from looking back, to march into the future and “to hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.”

Hope and change are words politicians toss around with reckless abandon, often without regard for what they truly represent. This time is different. The country is indeed changing, and Obama himself is representative of the profound change it has undergone.

As recently as a generation ago, it was, sadly, almost unthinkable that an African American could find himself within a stone’s throw of the White House. But on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, a black man was truly judged not by the color of his skin “but by the content of his character” as Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.

King called the 1963 March on Washington — during which he delivered his timeless “I have a dream” speech — “the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of our nation.”

If Aug. 28, 1963, marked the demonstration of freedom, then Aug. 28, 2008 marked the realization of the freedom for which brave leaders like King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks fought. The preacher from Georgia and the senator from Illinois will no doubt remain inextricably linked through history by their shared moment in time.

But while Obama embodies a huge step forward in the realization of a dream from the past, he also represents a dream for the future that American hopes and ideals can “bind us together despite our differences” so that “together, our dreams can be one.”

In a way, Obama is the embodiment of the American ideal. The son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, he exemplifies the cultural blending America was built on. Obama fought through the disadvantages inherent in growing up the black son of a single mother struggling to make ends meet in a country dominated by wealth and privilege and tainted by a legacy of bigotry. He worked his way through school, into college and then Harvard Law School, inspired by “that American spirit — that American promise — that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain,” sure he would eventually find “that better place around the bend.”

Whether the country has reached that better place has yet to be seen. Divisions still exist in society and, in some small circles at least, probably always will. Racial tensions continue and in November, some voters will undoubtedly cast ballots sullied by racial bias.

But Thursday night marked a turning point in American history. The country is starting to overcome those biases that have held it back for so long, allowing it to finally work toward realizing its full potential.

As Obama said during his acceptance speech, this election is not about him; it is about all of us. Barack Obama is living proof that anyone, from anywhere, can overcome the highest obstacles and aspire to greatness.

The dream lives on.

The Herald News