I am so excited I can hardly stand it. In the 36 years I
have been eligible to vote, no election in the US has given
me more hope than the presidential race that we are now facing.
I have been so turned off from politics, I have not bothered
to vote for the last 20 years. I have not been proud of my
apathy. I have never donated money to a presidential campaign,
but all that has changed. My ballot is on its way to Trinidad
as we speak and I am about to donate my first US$100 to the
candidate of my choice, Barack Obama.
I have been following Obamas meteoric rise even before
he won his Senate seat. There was no doubt in my mind that
Obama would rise to the level of a presidential candidate.
Even before he was elected to the US Senate, I wrote a column
claiming that he had a good chance to become the first black
President of the US.
I sure had a lot of people laughing at me when I wrote that.
I also had a lot of cynical souls scoffing at me and saying,
A black man in America? It will never happen.
For many people Obamas mixed heritage was an even bigger
obstacle to overcome. In America, I have always been told,
mixed people belong nowhere; neither white people nor black
people want to claim mixed-race people. Obama has proved all
those prejudice people wrong.
Obamas charisma, selflessness and integrity are evident
in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, an inspiring
story about a bright, young American man of mixed racial heritage
who transcended race and became a confident individual.
For me, politicians have always come from the same mould.
They are selfish, power-seeking individuals who care about
their own self-aggrandisement, but it has been clear from
Obamas track record that he genuinely cares about peopleparticularly
the grassroots. After graduating from Columbia University,
Obama worked in Chicago ghettos. He left when he got a chance
to attend Harvard University.
Obama made a name for himself and created history as the first
black man to head the Harvard Law Review. When he graduated,
he could have gone to any big law firm and worked in a posh
job. He could have taken the fast track to stardom. Instead,
he returned to the same Chicago ghetto where he worked for
about US$15,000 a year, a paltry salary. But its more
than this act of selflessness that gives Obama a universal
Obama is one of those rare individuals who exudes confidence
and promotes hope. He is an upbeat, optimistic individual
who has overcome unspeakable racial barriers. He also manages
to be worldly and not stuck in some colloquial American mould.
His roots reach far. With a father who was an African from
Kenya and a mother who was a white American with Cherokee
blood as well, Obama grew up in Kansas, Hawaii and Indonesia.
His mother was an anthropologist, who must have given him
a broad cultural perspective.
That Obama was able to develop the level of confidence and
commitment to all people that he has demonstrated in his career
is nothing short of miraculous.
In a country that still carries the baggage of slavery, he
has been able to find a sense of self. The proof of his power
lies in the influence he has had on this presidential campaign.
This is the first political campaign I can remember that did
not totally focus on mudslinging. Obama set the tone for this
election and when the Clintons tried to inject race into the
picture, he quickly turned the campaign back to what it should
be: a discussion of issues. He has not tried to play the race
card in any way. He has demonstrated great class.
The John F Kennedy clan has thrown its support behind Obama
with Kennedys daughter Caroline saying Obama represents
the same hope her father represented. Kennedys niece,
Maria Shriver, who is married to the Republican governor of
California, also agrees that Obama is an heir apparent to
the Kennedy legacy.
There are people who say that Obama doesnt have experience.
Experience in what? Party politics and all its tired, old
workings that often wreak of mismanagement and cynicism? Obama
has no scandals; no skeletons in his closet like the Clintons
had in their political past. He worked as a community organiser
and civil rights leader in Chicagos slums and he left
those slums a better place. He was one man working in the
trenches and he was able to make changes. Thats more
than I can say for any other candidate.
Obama has run a well organised campaign and hes been
able to fight the well-oiled political machinery of the Clintons
with admirable strength. He offers a new vision for American
politics because he seeks to understand the people of the
world and the problems that encompass all of us. He is not
haughty. He believes in solving problems.
All elections are important, but this one feels particularly
important. It feels like a pivotal election, one in which
old stereotypes of politicians are being challenged. Obama
reminds me of how hope always rises from despair. Just when
I think nothing will ever change, a strong, charismatic leader
comes along and makes me realise how cynical I have become.
Now I look around for a vision of hope and new leadership
everywhere I turn. I know, deep down, that someone always
rises to the challenge. Someone defies the odds and demonstrates
that there really is no way to move but forward.