06/04/08 — Hope or history? Barack Obama is one step closer to the White House

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Hope or history? Barack Obama is one step closer to the White House

Hillary Clinton might not know it yet, but there is a Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

And while the drama in the Clinton camp is expected to continue for at least a couple of days, that should not take away from the history-making achievement of Barack Obama as the first viable black candidate for president of the United States.

But after today, that designation and $1.25 should only buy him a cup of coffee.

Running for president is serious business — and picking the next leader of this nation should have nothing to do with his race.

So today is a milestone in the history of the United States. For the first time, a black man’s name will be on the ballot. It is a note for the history books.

But if we truly have moved beyond the barriers of race and sex — since if Mrs. Clinton had earned her spot, she would also have been an historic candidate — the next steps really need to not be about race — on both sides.

Picking a president should not be about setting a record or making an historic splash. It should be about who can best run this nation. It should be about policies, credibility, experience and vision, not speeches and hype.

So making that determination is what should be important now.

And we should move beyond race for another reason as well.

To assume that Obama was chosen simply because he is black is as insulting as dismissing him because he is black.

Obama ran a good campaign, reaching out to people, touching their hearts and making them feel like they, too, could be part of the process. He is a good speaker.

Now, we will need to see if he can be a good president.

He should not get a pass. He should not get to ride history’s coat tails into the White House. He should get the chance to compete for voters’ trust and checkmarks on an even playing field.

Then, if he wins, we will know — it is because he was the best man for the job and a barrier really has been broken.

There are many who talk about Obama as a beacon to young people — that he proves to them that there is a chance for them to achieve greatness, too.

But while he does carry that torch, he is really one of many people who have proven that success does not know black and white — and that hard work and determination — as well as an education — are what separate those who make it from those who don’t.

The best lesson Obama could teach right now is that minorities of all sorts do not need special dispensation. That they can be the best in the room without any help.

And if his historic run gets more minority families talking about possibilities for the future as well as the value of education and hard work, then a few more dreams just might become reality.

Published in Editorials on June 4, 2008 11:17 AM