SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Sen. Barack Obama’s first line was ad-libbed and it made me jealous. “It’s cold out here, but I’m fired up!” he told the frozen outside the Old State Capitol. I was glad somebody was warm, because I certainly wasn’t.
But it was more than worth the brief discomfort to witness the scene: the lean figure of Obama, framed by the Greek revival capitol, its worn limestone golden in the morning sun; the young, multi-cultural crowd cheering for him; the echoes of Lincoln and the Heartland; the whistles of the freight trains.
America at its best.
It was inspiring and humbling. This, after all, was the very place in which Lincoln had warned that a nation divided against itself could not stand. It was here that the age-old argument over race reached toward its crescendo. And it is here that Obama began a campaign that might end that argument altogether-or so we can hope.
And yet if Obama’s candidacy winds up being about race and history, he won’t be the Democratic presidential nominee, let alone the 44th president of the United States, for he will have failed in his stated mission to unite the country.
He has to be about the future, and he knows it. He made several bold assertions about himself and his campaign as harbingers of change. His challenge now is to prove that the assertions are true, that they make sense and that they can help him win.
Let’s look at some of them: