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Historic candidacy brings hope, obligation
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 6/5/2008 12:12 AM

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When Sen. Barack Obama crossed the delegate divide Tuesday to secure the Democratic presidential nod, he strode across a historic threshold of far greater proportions.

How fitting that a man who is poised to be the first black person nominated for president used the opportunity to say: "America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the polices of the past."


He did not say "Black America" or "White America." Just "America." And that is how it should be, this moment so long in coming for a nation founded on the principle that "All men are created equal" even as it enslaved some, disenfranchised others, and restricted for too long many men and women from actively participating in the political process that ensures our nation's strength.

Eighty-seven years after the founders of this nation first embodied the ideal that we are all equal, Abraham Lincoln would invoke the same mantra of equality Nov. 19, 1863, during a Civil War waged, in part, to ensure "a new birth of freedom."

A century later, it was clear that equality was still a dream as Martin Luther King also turned to those words to inspire in the historic civil rights march on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963:

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,'" King said in a call for change that still echoes across a nation struggling to define that equality.

Now, 45 years later, a senator from Illinois is poised to potentially become the first black president of the United States.

It was clear in the grueling, tedious and sometimes-flawed primary showdown between a black man and a white woman how far this nation has come -- and how far we have to go. Many did not see color or gender in Hillary Rodham Clinton's and Obama's equally spirited quests to snare the nomination. They only saw two strong, competitive contenders trying to make a compelling case for their candidacies.

But there were those who invoked racism and sexism with incendiary rhetoric, stirring emotions and discontent we clearly still need to address as a nation. Such discussion is paramount to true equality for all as we move forward, but nothing can take away from the historic precedents set by Clinton's primary candidacy and by Obama's ultimate achievement.

Now the obligation is on him to measure up to the promise he's made to " … offer a new direction for the country we love," and to prove to voters he can do the job.

Same with Republican John McCain. But it promises to be a good presidential campaign. Voters have two strong candidates with distinctly different positions on major issues while sharing a common pledge to be different than the business-as-usual Washington politician.

The obligation is on each of us to participate as the presidential campaign moves to the next level. Learn as much as you can about each party's candidate, assess them without regard to race or religion but by ability, and then make sure you are registered so you can vote. For, as demonstrated by the incredible turnouts throughout the primary season, those votes do count.