photo by Tommy Stevenson, Tuscaloosa News
I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.
---Caroline Kennedy, in her Sunday endorsement of Obama in the New York Times (read it here)
"If not now, when?" These were the mantric words spoken by the 50-year old woman who introduced Obama at Sunday's rally in Birmingham. She used this watchword to describe not only her feelings about volunteering for her first political campaign, but also to characterize the prevailing sentiment around Senator Obama's 2008 bid--that the time for his run was NOW, and not later after he had been "seasoned" by Washington. He often says again and again (we heard it here in Birmingham as well) when someone questions his premature candidacy, "I decided to run because of what Dr. King called the `fierce urgency of now.' Because I believe there is such a thing as being too late, and that hour is almost upon us."
And so, the tall, lanky Senator from Illinois, the Washington neophyte and harbinger of change, took the stage at UAB's Bartow arena, surrounded by 11,000 cheering, jubilant people. His recent South Carolina primary victory on Saturday was only more fuel for the fire, and was proof that the South may have a stronger democratic voice than previously given credit for, and that a black candidate can in fact have mass appeal--black, white; young, old; rich, poor; and even Democrat, Republican (more people are crossing the party-line after being disillusioned by the failed W. Presidency). “We’re going to write a new chapter in the South, we’re going to write a new chapter in American history”, Obama proclaimed. But as a black man, he also payed homage to pioneers of the Civil Rights movement, like 96 year-old Amelia Boynton Robinson of Tuskegee who was seated in the crowd, and acknowledged those present who lived the Birmingham of 1963. It was with great historical significance that he, an African-American presidential hopeful, stood in the same city that once earned the nickname "Bombing-ham" and turned police dogs and water hoses on peaceful demonstrators. In the hour that followed, Obama delivered a passionate sermon about change and the need for unity. In an all-encompassing message, he spoke about disrupting the politics of status-quo and fixing a broken country, all the while inspiring and empowering us to be a part of that process. We were driven to our feet on many occasion, clapping loudly, verbally affirming all of his promises to reform education, change the health care system, and end the war in Iraq. And by the end of it, I think I can safely say some of us were a little misty.
As we hurdle on towards Super Tuesday, when many of us will be voting in the Democratic primaries, I urge you to consider Obama. Eight years of my and so many other young people's cognizant political life have been mired in the presidency of George W. Bush. Because of him, we have become cynical about our country. Because of him, the gap between the rich and the poor has grown exponentially. Because of him we have been entangled in a war over oil, where we now have a new generation of veteran amputees. Because of him we have lost recognition as a world power. Because of him people have lost faith in our government. The time for change is now. And the name of that change is Barack Obama.
Now with two Kennedy endorsements under his belt, I leave you with an unofficial third. In 2005, at a ceremony for what would have been RFK's 80th birthday, Ethel Kennedy asked Obama to speak, referring to him "as our next president". That same day she later said: "I think he feels it. He feels it just like Bobby did. He has the passion in his heart. He’s not selling you. It’s just him.”
Want more? Check out Andrew Sullivan's December article in the Atlantic Monthly: "Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters".
Obama's response to Bush's State of the Union Address: