Barack Obama: Well Worth The Wait

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[The Speech: Election 2008]

My young sister Barbara in Uganda could not wait for The Speech.

"Make sure you wake me up 10 minutes before the speech," she ordered, after she called me here in New York from Kampala, thousands of miles away.

Never mind that Kampala is seven hours time zone ahead and The Speech would not start until after 10 PM, meaning it would be around 5 AM in Uganda.

The Speech she was referring to, of course, was Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic Party's Convention, in Denver, Colorado, yesterday.

Barbara, like hundreds of millions of people in the United States, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and elsewhere in Africa, was waiting to hear The Speech.

Obama represents different things for different peoples; in many African countries, many people see him, a possible president of the United States, as the essential repudiation of the incompetence, corruption, and tyranny associated with many African presidents who have presided over spectacular ruin.

Barack Obama's candidacy has unleashed unprecedented reservoirs of hope all over the world. People everywhere believe that the awesome power and wealth of the United States, when not abused, but properly harnessed and channeled, can make the entire world a better place.

Not all of these expectations can be fulfilled; but the mere thought that there is so much hope around the world, speaks loudly about the American potential, and, indeed, Barack Obama's.

Moreover, people love the story of an underdog, a David vs. Goliath; this epic Biblical classic resonates here, there, and everywhere.

From humble and unremarkable origin, this man of lean physique -- he could have easily been one of those statistics of failure, of underachievement, or of misfortune, that we all now take for granted when associated with a Black man -- was armed with the mightiest weapon that one can bequeath to young people; solid education by his single mother from Kansas.

The father had long abandoned them. Yet yesterday, he told the world how his mother used to wake him up, as a child, at 4:30 AM, to read. Who in the world can fail with this type of parenting?

Obama shunned all those excuses that were available to him, if he had wanted to fail; instead, he embraced the path of achievement. He knew that so long as he woke up everyday, and continued to absorb knowledge, the possibilities would know no limit.

Yet without the father's occasional firm grasp on his shoulder, something most young men need, Obama did hear some of those whispers; from dark unlit alleys. Already in his book, he has revealed that he sometimes paused, and he even entertained some mischief.

But his will to succeed was already indestructible. He refused to be derailed, and to end up a statistic.

Even while still searching for his place on this earth, he kept opening those books that would offer him a broader vision of the world; at Columbia University, then later, at Harvard Law School, where his excellence was rewarded with the Presidency of the Harvard Review, which honor had never been accorded to a Black man in all of the law school's more than 150 years history.

From Harvard, Obama shunned offers of well-paying jobs and millions of dollars. His American Dream was different. He went to Chicago and worked with low-income communities, and eventually entered politics and was elected to the State legislature.

From there, he was off to Washington, D.C., as a Senator.

He first became known to the United States and much of the world four years ago in Boston, when he addressed the Democratic Party's Convention that year. His speech, with its theme of a truly United States of America, provided hints about his remarkable talent as a communicator. There was much whispering; might this young man not run for president in eight or 12 years?

He could not delay the urgency of now and last year declared his candidacy. Yet, his party already had a nominee-in-waiting, the well known and sometimes beloved, Senator Hillary Clinton.

An epic struggle ensued. But the young man was poised and had, in hindsight, superior organizational skills. He won, not only because of his great oratory, but because he marshaled the youth, and the technology that young people live for, the Internet.

With the ability to directly communicate with supporters, the money started coming, and suddenly Clinton did not have any advantages.

When appeals were made to the basest sentiments, to derail Obama's candidacy by appealing to racial fears and hostilities, he righted the ship with his famous Philadelphia Speech.

The victories in the primary elections mounted; soon he was the prospective nominee.

He is articulate, well dressed --and why not?-- thoughtful, visionary, and well learned. And for this, detractors occasionally abuse him; some even resent the fact that he decided not to become a mere statistic.

Or are they afraid?

Afraid that this man might show and convince others that there is a way out; that if he can do it, all others can also raise their station in life?

Now he is steeling himself for the final assault, and an elderly ex-military man blocks his path. Obama has proven that sometimes wisdom trumps experience, so he should prevail.

Yesterday, he was at his best. And people all over the world knew they would not be disappointed.

And I did not need to wake up Barbara so that she could watch The Speech.

At 7:57 PM here in the U.S., 2:57 AM in Uganda, she sent me a text message: "Am up and waiting!"

And millions more like her, all over the world, were also waiting.

At 11:16 PM here in the U.S., 6:16 AM in Uganda, this was Barbara's message: "Wow well worth the wait!"

Yes; indeed.

Well worth the wait.

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