Personal reflections on Obama’s speech

Barack Obama’s speech from Philadelphia today was a eulogy on the twentieth century’s conversation on race. Seeing a candidate – a Presidential candidate no less – pen a speech that holds the mirror up to all of America, equally, unashamedly and nakedly, made me exhale deeply and say, “finally.”

As one who has advised several candidates, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to green light that speech. Obama and his team have at stake millions of dollars, millions of supporters and incomprehensible pressures to win on November 4th. That’s not to be underestimated or undervalued. Above all, if Obama does not win, he will not be able to enact the new ways of governing about which he so eloquently speaks. In spite of, or more likely, because of all that, Obama and his team made a bold decision: to say what everyone is thinking, but no one wants to say out loud.

As a child, my lens on race was shaped by classmates making fun of me or chasing me home from school because I looked different than they did. As an adult, I came to understand race through my deep friendship with Carolyn Goodman, whose son, Andy Goodman, was murdered by the KKK in Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964.

Obama’s speech was one of the most honest recitations I have heard on race in America. That’s unusual. That makes me take a deep breath, and exhale it with both nervousness and relief.

One hundred and five years ago, William Edward Burghardt DuBois uttered his famous line: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.” Now, a century later, Barack Obama has kick-started the twenty-first century’s conversation on race. In this new conversation, like the yin-yang symbol, there is a little bit of good in all of us, and a little bit of bad. From that little bit of common ground though, we can finally move forward.


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