American Reporter Correspondent
Panama City, Panama
Nov. 10, 2008
DEAR ANDREW: THERE'S THIS GUY NAMED OBAMA
BRADENTON, Fla., Nov. 2, 2008 -- You would have thought I was a lunatic, the way I went walking down the street shouting into the air that Jesse Jackson was running for President. You really need to be a little odd to do something like that, but ever since my friend Dennis Gurrant, an Olympic-class broad-jumper who had beaten Bob Beamon at the Randalls Island Invitational, I have been a little odd on the topic of electing a black man president.
I've written abouty how our little town in suburban New York had the opportunity to send him there, but never realized their opportunity to be home to an Olympic gold medalist - partly, I'm sure, because Dennis was black.
And there was the night I went up to Harlem - the night of Dr. Martin Luther King's death - to disprove the canard that a white man who walked in Harlem at night would be gratuitously murdered. I heard a lot of vitriol, but no one touched me on what may have been the worst possible night for a white man ever to be in Harlem.. And that began my carrer in journalism a few weeks later, when I wrote about it in a handwritten article for the Village Voice.
And then there was Colin Powell. I endorsed him the day someone else launched a draft committee to get him into the 2000 presidential race. I needed no more encouragement, because I had come to deeply admire this quiet, straightforward man who led our forces successfully in Operation Desert Storm. Millions felt the same way I did, but the candidacy never happened.
And now there's Barack Obama. Although I had supported John McCain in 2000 with contributions and a personal meeting in 2000, when he successfully challenged Geroge W. Bush in New Hampshire, and contributed to him in the primaries because I thought he was ideal Republican - or as close as you can get to one - I started contributing to Obama the day he declared his candidacy. It wasn't a lot, but with an income under $10,000 a year I can't afford a lot.
It was what I could do, along with articles and campaign coverage, and I think it al;l reflected my belief that overcoming the historic divide between black and white Americans will broaden the great constituency of democracy, make our nation whole, and make our country a far, far better one. Today and in the next forty-eight hours we undertake a historic march towards this goal that I believe will be accomplished by Sen. Obama's ascension to the White House.
But will there really be a difference? Oh. yes, America, there will really, really be a difference. My wife and I can't afford to visit a doctor, and he will probably change that - perhaps with the moral urging of Hillary Clinton - and I know he will try mightily to do it.
He will end the war in Iraq, which I have supported long after my many liberal friends have turned very much against it, because I believe a strategic position in the heart of the Middle East is our best bulwark against the spread of Islamic terrorism. I believe Barack Obama will bring that war to its appropriate conclusion, and fight the war against al-Qaeda the Taliban in Afghanistan with great success.
I believe he will take positive steps to reduce the credit card rates so many brke Americans pay, and to weed out the corruption that brought down Wall Street. I can't see him pumping $140 billion into the insurance company giant AIG, as the White House and U.S. Treasury have done, when that kind of money could cure cancer, diabetes, stimulate new medical, scientific and physics research to make this a better world - and still have tens of billions left over for the public good.
None of this has anything to do with Barack Obama being black. I can't say for sure, but if he had run as a white man against another black man, I think his tone, his youth, his great political ability and his enormous gift for leadership would still have attracted my support. In other words, I would have voted against a black man with the qualities of a John McCain, if he was white and had the qualities of Obama. That's a dangerous, wrong-headed path to take, so let me stop there.
Our nation is poised upon its most historic moment in the long and bloody 143 years since the end of the Civil War and the liberation of African-American slaves. We have paused to admire Booker T. Washington, Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Tom Bradley, Bill Cosby, Maya Angelou, and Colin Powell, who are just a tiny number of the millions and millions of black Americans who have contributed so much to this country. By default, we will honor their great sacrifices and great achievements that together made the candidacy of Barack Obama possible.
It can move one either to prayer or tears to consider the depth and pain of the journey we have taken to this day, and it has moved me to a great tearful pride in my America. This is, remains and always will be the greatest nation God has ever allowed to inhabit the Earth. On November 4, by the hundred millions, we will demonstrate that greatness again.