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“This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘My country,’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the ilgrims pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’”—excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘I Have a Dream Speech, August 28, 1963
Kenneth Miller, Assistant to Executive PublisherEvan Barnes, Sentinel Staff Writer
Forty-five years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Three years ago today, citizens of New Orleans got their final evacuation order before Hurricane Katrina struck their city the following day.
Now today, with this and the history of other African-American struggles and triumphs as a backdrop, a Black man will accept a major party nomination to become President of the United States for the first time in American history.
Senator Barack Obama, who was barely an afterthought 19 months ago when he announced his intentions to run for the White House, will make his acceptance speech tonight at Invesco Field—home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos—in front of over 76,000 supporters.
With a speech entitled “Change You Can Believe In,” Obama will continue to preach his message of health care for all, tax cuts for middle-class Americans and ending the war in Iraq.
But he is also aware of the significance of this moment—a moment that many thought would never come and one that has been building since the first slaves fought to be free.
It is a moment that stemmed from Frederick Douglass being the first Black to receive a ballot vote for president at the 1888 Republican National Convention to Shirley Chisholm and Jesse Jackson’s historic runs in 1972 and 1988, respectively.
At this very convention, 24 percent of all the delegates are Black, the largest percentage in history for either party. It is a tribute to growing power of the Black political base and at the forefront of it is Barack Obama.
Four years ago at this very stage, he was an unknown Illinois state senator running for the U.S. Senate. His stirring keynote address at the Democratic convention in Boston and subsequent election to the Senate keyed to his rise as a star in the Democratic Party.
After working as a senator in Washington for four years and changing the way a primary election is won, energizing not just a party and a people but a world as far as Germany, Obama now stands on the doorsteps of the unthinkable.
But he is not about to shy away at the enormous task that rests before him. Instead, he has embraced it by not backing down from the attacks Sen. John McCain throws at him and sticking to his plan of talking strategy over negativity and criticism over slander.
This campaign has already been historical for how it has taken advantage of technology to reach supporters and reduce some of the secrecy and closed-door tactics. Supporters first learned of his decision to name Sen. Joe Biden as vice-president via a cell-phone message, not a news outlet.
Like few before him, Sen. Obama has inspired millions of Americans with his speeches and his plan to change America from the past eight years marred by a steady recession and an unpopular war.
It’s only fitting that this unconventional campaign will see him deliver his acceptance speech in a way only two—John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt—have done before.
Ironically, Kennedy—a President to whom many compare Obama’s passion and meteoric rise with—delivered his acceptance speech at a football stadium, the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in 1960.
It will be a scene similar to what Dr. King saw 45 years ago when he delivered his legendary speech about his vision for America moving beyond racial barriers to see a common goal.
Obama is a living embodiment of this vision as well as an extension of it by connecting Americans of all races and walks of life to see their common problems and work together for a common solution.
Tonight, the hopes of the Democratic Party will officially be placed on his broad shoulders but it is not a burden he is unfamiliar with. Once he announced he was running for President, he carried the hopes of Black Americans who dreamed this day would came.
Many Black citizens have proudly registered to vote in the 19 months since he announced his run for President, invigorated by the hopes of seeing a Black man in the most powerful office.
It is a hope that has extended from schoolchildren to young adults to men and women who meet in the barbershop, the hair salon, the mall and various businesses in Black neighborhoods.
In many of their wildest dreams, no matter how far fetched, none could ever imagine that the day would come that a Black man could actually run for—and potentially win—the Presidency of the United States of America...until now.