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Tears Flow, Tens of Thousands Cheer as Barack Obama Officially Becomes First Black Nominee

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by Michael H. Cottman, Black America Web

On the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, Barack Obama stood before nearly 85,000 cheering supporters, accepted the Democratic nomination for president of the United States and stepped into history as the first African-American to lead a major political party on a quest for the White House.

His words, his vision for the nation and his profound passion for change, brought tears to some in the multi-cultural throng of Democrats who are solidly behind Obama on his unprecedented journey.

“Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes, and more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay and tuition that is beyond your reach,” Obama said. “These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed presidency of George W. Bush. America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.”

Rev. Cynthia Hale, a politically active pastor from Atlanta, called the experience Thursday night “a God moment” — a spiritual description that seemed appropriate, considering Obama’s personal commitment to faith.

Inside the huge INVESCO Field, the site where Democratic organizers moved Obama’s speech from the Pepsi Center to accommodate the crush of supporters, there were plenty of tears — tears of joy, tears of pride and tears for hope for a better future.

It was a celebration for many black men and women who said they never thought they’d live to see a day where a black man could be on the verge of becoming president.

There will be plenty of time to analyze Obama’s chances to win the election while he’s locked in a tie with Republican Sen. John McCain, but on Thursday, most people didn’t want to look to far into the future. They wanted to feel the passion of the moment, to soak up the symbolism and history and wipe away tears of happiness.

It was an evening where black senior citizens walked slowly up the steps on the stadium next to young adults who took two steps at a time to find a good seat from which to appreciate the moment. It was a night where black delegates shared stories of candidates past who were good men, but could not inspire a nation the way Obama has done in a little over one year.

It was night where fathers and mothers called their children on cell phones to tell them about their experience watching history unfold before their eyes.

There were black folks who attended Obama’s speech at INVESCO Field who remember fondly King’s famous speech from 45 years ago and the similarities between the two men: King was a phenomenal orator who could draw huge crowds with talk of social justice, racial equality and a social movement, much like Obama today; King had a forward-thinking vision for America, like Obama.

But there was one distinct difference: King’s movement of the 1960s civil rights era was largely made up of blacks from across the country, while Obama’s support is multi-cultural with large support from whites, in part because of his mixed heritage — his African father and his white mother. Obama also talks less about racial equality and more about uplifting all Americans.

Thursday was a night that belonged to Obama. No distractions from the Clintons. No responding to attack ads from John McCain. No questions about Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It was vintage Obama connecting to people in an enormous stadium as if he was sitting in their living rooms.

He talked of profoundly changing the way people think about their future. He talked up uplifting lives though hope and faith. He talked of Americans working together to make the nation a better place for everyone, especially the disenfranchised.

And he went after his Republican opponent and his embrace of the Bush-Cheney years.

“The record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time,” Obama said. “Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.”

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who said his father died without realizing his dreams, said millions of black boys and girls can be inspired by Obama’s candidacy.

“I am so proud,” Cummings said.

Throngs of Democrats lined up to enter the huge stadium in the early afternoon, some waiting for eight hours to hear Obama’s message. The day marked one of the most profound moments in American political history, and many people inside the stadium — black, white, Hispanic and Asian — said they did not want to miss the opportunity to witness it firsthand.

Civil rights icons and black congressional leaders like Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover and Cicely Tyson gathered for what many called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

For many civil rights advocates like Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the NAACP, it was a time to celebrate what black activists have worked hard to prepare for: A black president to lead all Americans. A black president who also understands the social and economic challenges that many Americans face everyday. A black president who can uplift people and set policies to help improve the quality of their lives.

Some Democratic insiders talked this week about the challenge Obama faces connecting to white voters who may not want to support a black candidate for president. Obama has sought to play down his race because, for some white voters, like many inside the stadium Thursday, they see Obama as a visionary who can help improve the quality of their lives, regardless of race.

Still, the fact that Obama is black is not lost on black delegates and supporters in Denver, who walked proudly through the stadium wearing Obama t-shirts, buttons, pins, sparkling hats and anything that said “Obama.”

In fact, if there is one graphic illustration of support for Obama that comes from unpredictable quarters, it was watching four white men with baseball caps and southern accents holding a large sign with bold red letters: “REDNECKS FOR OBAMA.”

“Now that’s a surprise,” said one black delegate, laughing and stopping to take a picture to capture the moment.


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