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AMERICA needs a visionary, someone who can bridge the painful historic breaches in our national soul. Barack Obama will not simply promote reconciliation; he will be an iconic model of it, proof of the deepest truth of our American Dream.

In an election that is about change, a new face should be welcome. That this face, Barack Obama's face, is African-American would make this change truly transcendent. But skin color and genealogy are not sufficient reasons to choose Obama. We have had enough of hereditary assumption of entitlement. Neither genes nor pillow-side propinquity is in itself qualifying. As for experience, he has served 12 years in elected office to Hillary Clinton's seven. Today, experience in repeating old mistakes isn't an asset. We are not looking for a better bureaucrat.

George W. Bush ran on his experience as a CEO. His promise was competence. Enough said. Hillary is running as a better, smarter, more competent and truly compassionate Bush. While she would be a major improvement, W set a low bar indeed.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy said, "The torch has been passed to a new generation." This is the time for us boomers to pass the torch, time to change the generation of leadership and leave behind the old enmities created by the Vietnam War and the cultural conflicts of the '60s.

We know what the challenges are. We have Iraq. Afghanistan is deteriorating, and radical Islam is a growing worldwide threat. Our once-proud health-care system is in a shambles. Our financial assets are being sold off to Saudi, Kuwaiti, Singaporese, Chinese and Korean interests. (At least it's to South Korea!) Meanwhile, both parties have continued spending money we didn't have and mortgaging our children's future to the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Singaporean, Chinese and Koreans.

In electing Obama, we would be saying something to ourselves and to the world. We would be doing something that would make us feel good and just might nudge the world into giving up some of its prejudices about us.

Obviously, voting for Obama because he is African-American would be merely self-indulgent symbolism. There is, however, clearly substance to this man. He did not get into Columbia University as a legacy, but on merit. His major was international relations, and he has traveled the world and lived in other lands. Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where his peers (mostly white) elected him president of Harvard Law Review. He was their first African-American president. This is evidence of his ability to unite people across old boundaries.

He has been a community organizer, a civil-rights lawyer and an Illinois state senator for eight years, and has a proven record of working both tough and cooperatively across the partisan divide. He was also a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School in constitutional law. Someone who knows, appreciates and respects our Constitution will be a welcome change.

Obama is only the fifth African-American ever to serve in the United States Senate. He opposed the Iraq war, voted against Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and serves with passion and distinction on the Education Committee. His is a record of integrity, judgment and character. His life embodies America's hopes, dreams, promise.

Obama is a man of grace whose achievements come from his own works. He is an advocate and a peacemaker -- a rare combination. This is his time, and this can be our time.

Obama is a man with inspirational qualities, and that counts for a lot. Like JFK and Ronald Reagan, he is charismatic without demagoguery and optimistic without seeming delusional. He is a person who can lift our sometimes-sagging spirits and rally us around a vision of hope. He can make the tired, the downtrodden and even the cynical believers in the great promise of America. He can be a bridge between peoples, religions and classes. Obama appeals to what President Lincoln called "our better angels."

I know that many have tried to smear him because of his Arabic name. Shakespeare asked, "What's in a name?" Barack has two roots: In Hebrew it means "lightning." In Arabic it means "blessing." Like lightning, Obama has flashed into our national consciousness, electrifying young and old. His election could signal the end of old wounds and the beginning of an age that transforms old hopes into present blessings.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 27, 2008
Previous Article:THE CASE FOR ... MITT ROMNEY.

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