Monday, February 4, 2008
An Obama Nation: Are We Ready for Change?
by Kevin D. Johnson, Publisher of AUC Magazine
Depending on your political persuasion, the title of this piece connotes a change for the better or a change for the worse. To those Democrats who believe this country needs a new face in the White House, Barack Obama seems to be the clear choice, but to those who are staunch Republicans, Obama's unprecedented political success would be best described in homonymic terms: an abomination.
No matter what your opinion of Obama, one thing is certain: this country has never witnessed such a well-organized, awe-inspiring campaign such as Obama's presidential run. Regardless of race, gender, and socio-economic background, the charismatic senator has ascended, in a relatively short time, the political ranks to coalesce millions of Americans around a mantra of hope and change.
My fascination with the campaign of "hope and change" started in February of last year, two weeks after Obama's official presidential campaign announcement. Somewhat bitten by the political bug, I decided on a whim to attend an informal meeting at a Starbucks in a northern suburb of Atlanta . A group of about thirty diverse people gathered to meet one another, share why they support Obama, volunteer for tasks, and discuss how to recruit more people to the campaign. As an aloof spectator, I was amazed to see the dynamics of the enthusiastic meeting, organized and facilitated by the kind of diverse leadership that has become synonymous with Obama's campaign. I knew something was brewing after that meeting and decided to find out more.
I quickly read Obama's The Audacity of Hope, a beautifully written semi-autobiographical book that avoids delving too deep into policy, but gives the reader —regardless of the extent of their political knowledge— enough substance and fresh perspective to crave more. After doing my due diligence on all presidential candidates, I was convinced that Obama was a competitive candidate capable of winning the White House. I then decided to contribute to the campaign even though my complete allegiance to his cause was not decided.
Having had a few opportunities to meet and talk with the Obamas, both Barack and his wife Michelle, I can say firsthand that the hype is real; it is palpable. I was honored to walk beside him and the Clintons during the commemoration of Bloody Sunday in Selma , Alabama of March of last year. Later that month, I was honored to be the youngest co-host of Obama's first visit to Atlanta as a presidential candidate where alongside my co-hosts including distinguished Atlantans Lisa Borders, David Adelman and Sandra Baccus, we raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. My participation in the campaign continues in various ways. As a contributor, I have noticed that no matter where I am with or without Obama's presence, the excitement and mobilization of people to make change is astonishing; no other candidate has been able to engender such a response from the American populous, especially among the young.
Despite Obama's unique ability to bring together people from all walks of life, I often get asked (primarily from black people): Do you think we are ready for a black president? This question is ridiculous because it implies that the merit of Obama has little if any significance in his ability to take this country to the next level, that his blackness will always becloud his ability to lead and bring together this country, something that he has already done to an extraordinary degree. Such negativity cloaked with a tone of compassionate concern shows no faith in the American people to transcend race. In my opinion, the question reflects poorly on the person asking it and points to their own lack of self-esteem and vision. Perhaps these people are the posterity of those who asked Dr. King, "Do you think the country is ready for us to demand civil rights?" Or maybe they asked John F. Kennedy, "Do you honestly think we can put a man on the moon?" Or maybe they doubted the timing of Abraham Lincoln's agenda by asking, "Do you think the country is ready for the abolition of slavery?"
By no means am I a political pundit able to pontificate with the likes of George Stefanopolis or Sean Hannity. My attempt at passing National Government 251 in college was pathetic at best. I do, however, pride myself like most Americans on being able to follow along with the best political analysts and to determine what I think is the best vision for the future of the United States of America . Currently, this country needs a leader who can imbue an emaciated nation with hope, and not a kind of fraudulent hope that has been trumpeted by Obama detractors, but a kind of hope that inspires people to act and play a meaningful part in their government to improve their circumstance, the quintessence of American democracy. To me, the only candidate who has thus far proven his or her ability to do this is Barack Obama, who in his own words can "rally Americans from all walks of life around a common purpose, a higher purpose".
The nation is ready for change!