In the midst of a fiercely contested presidential campaign, it is all too easy to rush past the remarkable turn for America that Sen. Barack Obama's capture of the Democratic presidential nomination represents. It's a moment to cherish, regardless of our social, economic and political differences.
For more than 150 years, this nation has struggled to free itself from the ugly residue of slavery. Just 60 years ago, within the lifetime of many of us, the U.S. Supreme Court took the first decisive step toward eliminating school segregation and other public manifestations of racial discrimination. Today, the question of race has become largely irrelevant for a generation of younger Americans.
Millions of voters, young and old, flocked to Senator Obama because he appealed to their aspirations for a brighter future and a better life. He gave them a reason to be hopeful because of the ideals and vision of the country that he shared. And his views resonated from Iowa City to Raleigh, N.C., and Portland, Ore., to Baltimore.
And voters embraced Senator Obama not as the black candidate, but rather as someone eager to move beyond the tired old arguments about race.
That's good news, not just for Mr. Obama's candidacy but for every citizen concerned about America's future in this widely diverse and interconnected world.
Mr. Obama's success should signal to every African-American that there is no ceiling for their hopes and dreams of achievement in this country. That's a plus for everyone because all will benefit from the energy and ambition it will unleash.
Now Mr. Obama must convince others in his party and the rest of the country that his promise of constructive change has substance beyond its rhetorical flourish. He has to convince older, less-educated Americans that a man with his cool patrician style can relate to their needs.
An angry minority may whisper about his race or question his religion, but in the end, this candidate will almost certainly win or lose because of his plan to pull out of Iraq, his approach to health care or other issues far removed from the color of his skin. For that significant victory over racism, we should all be grateful.