Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Journey of a Life Time

(Denver) – There was a rumble which shook Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium and forever changed American politics as we know it.

The stomping and chanting was for Senator Barack Obama who accepted the Democratic Party nomination for President. Senator Obama strode to the stage as a conquering hero. It was a journey that began on a cold day in Springfield, Illinois and ended in a whirlwind of confetti and adulation.

“We meet at one those defining moments – a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil and the American promise has been threatened once more.”

Removed is the term presumptive, Obama is the nominee. It is a curious route for this candidate. The journey to Denver had its bumps, curves, twist, and challenges. Those are behind him. He had to make the case for leading the most powerful nation on the planet.

Four years ago in Boston I was an eyewitness to this emerging political star. I’d interviewed him the day before the speech which some say ushered in a paradigm for Democratic politics. I came away with an uncanny sense he had something few political leaders have, “the common touch.” I would again interview him the day after the speech and it re-enforced my opinion.

I knew I wouldn’t have this type of meeting in Denver, but I want to see what had changed from Boston to Denver. The visuals were off the charts. Expectations in this environment can be daunting.

Symbolism and the Day

Tonight’s keynote address by Obama has a number of incidental and numerical references. It occurs forty-five years removed from the Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. Moses wanders in the dessert for forty years. 40 days and 40 nights was length of time Noah and the Ark find dry land to restart civilization. Muhammad was 40 years old when he received the revelation delivered by an angel. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.

The date 08-28-08 for numerologist is a sign (some say the three 8’s are part of a messianic revelation). Obama would later tell the audience at Invesco “that eight is enough" (the number of years Republicans have held the White House).
But enough with the symbolism references.

A Tribute to MLK and “The Dream”

My day starts at 11 am with a visit to the New Hope Baptist Church for a celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the "I Have Dream Speech." I'm surprise to see Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes. The choir warms up the crowd with stirring renditions of He Brought This Far by Faith, Over My Head and a rendition of a song with a call and response chant of 'Yes We Can'."

Later the crowd sings all three versus of the “Negro National Anthem,” Life Every Voice and Sing. Normally, most people sing the first and third versus of the song, but not today. People in the pulpit appear to be on an emotional high.

I was privilege to hear from two men whose intersection with King came at seminal moments. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia was at the MLK speech 40 years ago. On that day he was the tenth speaker on the program at the Washington Monument. In his southern drawl he told the crowd that King’s staff had actually struck the line “I Have a Dream.” “King reinserted the line after hearing Mahalia Jackson sing.” The founder of the student non-violent coordinating committee would leave for Invesco because he was scheduled to address the crowd.

Lewis would be followed by Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. He felt many people missed the line in the speech about the “fierce urgency of now.” King in his time had been told to wait your turn, you’re not experienced, just wait. It sounds strikingly similar to Barack Obama.”

There were many more noted speakers but the clock said one o’clock. I “dipped” out of the service to get to the stadium. There have been so many cautions about today; Get to the stadium early; be prepared for long security lines; dress for warm weather; and expect traffic delays. (I've already heard that Oprah Winfrey shutdown downtown with her motorcade. No problem


The Republicans are pushing several lines effectively against Obama. He’s an elitist/rock star, he’s not patriotic, can he be commander in chief on day one, and setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq will mean surrender.

Methodical he answered each of these issues and delved into areas heretofore Democrats have shied away from abortion, gun control, and personal responsibility.

I keep coming back to the visual. He looked presidential, he spoke as a president, he exuded the confidence of a president, but will the rest of America buy it.

70 year old, Tom Thomas of Pasadena, California was typical of those in attendance. “I never thought I would see a Black nominated for the president in my life time. The event exceeded my expectations. It’s nothing short of spiritual experience.”

Final Thoughts

It’s been an amazing week. Some things I expected others came out of the blue. There was definitely an unusual vibe in Denver. I’ll tell you, I was psyched about coming to Denver, but I’m always psyched about politics. Minneapolis will be different, but no less interesting.




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