Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My Decision is Barack Obama

In January 1953, my deep south 4th grade teacher lined us up to walk two blocks to a classmates house to watch the inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower on his new black and white television. It was the first time I gave any thought to who was leading these United States of America, and actually the last for many years. I had too many other things on my mind. And for me the remainder of the '50s dragged on in black and white.

I turned 18 in 1960, graduated high school, left home and went off to college at Tulane University in New Orleans. There I met wonderful and diverse new people, teachers and students, some of whom challenged many of the ideas I had accepted growing up. It was a time of enlightenment for me and, to be honest I resisted much of the new thought because it flew in the face of my southern roots in Mississippi and Georgia. Racial equality, social justice for all, women's rights, what the hell were these all about? Everybody had his own place in my little world, and these ideas sure didn't square with that! My redneck world had structure, dammit.

That November, the junior Senator from Massachusetts, John Kennedy, came from nowhere and was elected president of these United States. I was finally beginning to wake up and take notice. And at his inauguration in January 1961, I found myself once again glued to a black and white television. Only this time, I actually listened to his words, and for the first time saw the leadership of these United States not as a bunch of stuffy old men, but as young and vibrant and enthuiastic. His final challenge to us all, to "ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country", was an inspiring invitation to participate in the future. It changed my life in a profound manner.

This past week, images and recollections of JFK have consumed the news, as one after another of the Kennedy family, friends and supporters have reached out to give their support to Barack Obama in his quest for the Democratic nomination. Its been stated over and over ad nauseum that John Kennedy was the face and voice of a whole new generation of Americans. Younger to be sure, but not based so much on youth as on a new vision of what America was and could be again in the future.

I agree that Barack Obama is the best person to lead us into the future at this most critical time in American history. He is the new voice, the person to remind us of what America was, and what we can be again in the future. So I will vote for Barack Obama in the Louisiana primary, and I will support him in November.

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