In the week during which the nation marks the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination
The hope that died in 1968, particularly with the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, is reborn in an improbable presidential nominee who presents himself as the embodiment of "the audacity of hope."-
America's first Civil War began in the 1860s and left the nation divided. Republicans dominated the nation's politics for the remainder of the nineteenth century by linking Democrats with the Rebels of the 1860s.
Now that second American civil war""the Forty Years War often called the culture wars""may be ending with Obama, the first post-Sixties presidential candidate.
Obama will give his acceptance speech on August 28, the forty-fifth anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream"- speech.
Assuming he wins in November, Barack Obama will be inaugurated less than three weeks before Abraham Lincoln's two-hundredth birthday.
The remarkable symbolism for this country and its ideals of the first African-American ever to be nominated for the presidency by a major party accepting that nomination on the day when, 45 years before, King had called on the nation to fulfill its long-deferred ideals, and of the inauguation of the first black president shortly before the bicentennial of the birth of the "Great Emancipator"- ought to send chills up the spine of all but the most hopeless of cynics.
We have been hearing a great deal about the role of racism in the campaign and about the voters who said that they would never vote for a black person. This is surely true and much remains to be done to eradicate the blight of racism. But let us remember that those same people were being questioned as they left the polls having voted for a woman.
We have been hearing a great deal about the role of sexism in the campaign and about the voters who said that they would never vote for a woman. This is surely true and much remains to be done to eradicate the blight of sexism. But let us remember that those same people were being questioned as they left the polls having voted for an African-American.
Let's put aside the argument over which Democratic candidate won the most popular votes and appreciate the fact that more Americans voted for each of them""a black man and a woman, two categories of people who were excluded from the full rights of citizenship for a majority of the nation's history""than have ever voted for anyone in previous primary elections.
In this, the 232nd year since Thomas Jefferson proclaimed as America's ideal the radical concept that "all men are created equal,"- the 221st since the Founding Fathers set out "to form a more perfect union,"- the 143rd since the ending of slavery, the 88th since women gained the right to vote, the 43rd since the Voting Rights Act, we are making significant moves in the direction of treating all men and women equally and forming a less imperfect union.
In this, the eighth year of a presidency that has undermined America's values and badly soiled the nation's reputation in the world community""a presidency that a recent informal poll of historians classified as the worst in the history of the United States""it turns out that all the news is not bad. There is cause to hope that the long national nightmare may be coming to an end with a rebirth of what is best about this country to a degree never before experienced.
This truly is a time for American celebration.