Monday, February 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rosa Parks

Oprah Winfrey, influential talk show host, got a little help from her friends, who showed up Sunday at UCLA to stand up for Barack Obama for President. In Los Angeles, if you throw a big enough party, the stars will come out. Among the 9,000 member audience were numerous faces recognized from the world of entertainment. On stage came legendary musician Stevie Wonder, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, Kennedy cousin Maria Shriver, former NBC news anchor and wife of the current Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican, who has already endorsed John McCain. The California first lady announced her endorsment of Sen. Obama as she danced around the stage with excitement. She said if Obama was a state, he would be California: “Diverse, open, smart, independent, bucks tradition. Innovative. Inspirational. Dreamer. Leader."

Michelle Obama, wife of the Illinois Senator and herself a lawyer, spoke impressively on her husband’s behalf. She is also the mother of their two young daughters. She told of her own background, raised in urban Chicago of hard working parents and attending neighborhood public schools on her way to Princeton, opportunities that increasingly are unavailable due to declines in the schools and the difficulty of raising families on working salaries.

All of these wonderful speakers, Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Maria Shriver were remarkable for their passion and originality. Not a hint in any speech of the writing hand of some political hack. I have been a political junkie for half a century. I’ve watched a lot of sausage being made. I’ve never seen anything quite like this gathering. More than anything else, it reminded me of the feeling I experienced in 1963 the first time I saw a handful of students from Moorehouse, Spellman, and Clark colleges sitting down on the sidewalk in front of the doorway at Charlie Leb’s popular delicatessen-style restaurant across from the Rialto Theatre at Forsyth and Luckie Streets.

Add to the list of endorsements conspicuously headed by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Mass:

Alma Rangel, wife of New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, who backs Sen. Clinton, “I believe Barack Obama has the ability to unify this country," she said, "and the character to stand up for what’s right instead of what’s popular."

Public radio host Garrison Keillor, native of Lake Wobegon: "Seven years of a failed presidency is a depressing thing, and the country is pressing for a change and looking for someone with clear vision who is determined to break through the rhetorical logjam and find sensible ways to move our country forward," and seeing Obama and his family in front of the U.S. Capitol next January is a happy prospect that will "bring an end to a long sour chapter in our history."

Also endorsing Obama: Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, movie star Robert DeNiro, wrestling star Hulk Hogan.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter

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