Vol. 3    No. 22
October 30, 2008
   I don’t know what I can say about the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama for the U.S. Presidency that hasn’t been
said a million times before by an infinite number of pundits. When I took a couple of interns — Martinez White and
David Wright who are now UW students — down to Milwaukee in 2005 to attend the NAACP convention, I must
admit that I went to see the likes of Harry Belafonte and Julian Bond, icons of the civil rights movement. But the
one who caught our eye was this freshman senator out of Illinois, Barack Obama. He had a different style and
something different to say. He was definitely a voice of another generation.
    About a year and three months later, Barack Obama came to Milwaukee on a crisp, but sunny October workday
to speak on behalf of Governor James Doyle who was up for re-election. Juan José López and I made a road trip to
hear him speak. There were only a couple of thousand people there at the time. Barack had changed somewhat
since he had come to Milwaukee. I would say he was more self-assured and began to espouse his vision for
America. The young people in the crowd cheered their hearts out — Black, White, Latino and Asian — and I think
all who were there knew that Barack was something special. I would say that most of us — Juan, myself, Stan Davis
and others who were there — probably knew in our hearts that he would run and become the next President of the
United States.
    There was just that moment when “I knew.” It’s a funny thing, but it was like it just landed between the eyes of
my consciousness and “I knew.” The cool thing back then — since Barack was just on tour promoting his book and
appearing for Democratic candidates — was that you could get close to him. There was no Secret Service. There
were the people who look after the Governor, but that was about it. I remember watching him give his speech from
about 10 yards or less away. And I stood near him as he shook what seemed like everyone’s hand after the speech
as he made his way to the car. I couldn’t make up my mind to shake his hand or take photos. I opted to take photos
because I was a journalist after all.
    About seven months later, Barack came back to Milwaukee to speak at the Milwaukee Theater on April 16. My
son Andrew and I went as journalists. Andrew was temporarily back from China and writing a column for The Hues.
I wanted him to see Barack up close, especially since he, like Barack, was also African American and Euro-
American. When it was his turn, Andrew went with the photographers to take photos. He got close from the side to
see Barack and later recalled that for a moment, his and Barack’s gaze met — a temporary connection of
recognition — before Barack turned to speak to another part of the audience. He could really connect with Barack
and Barack was speaking in a way that adults from Andrew’s generation could relate.
    This time around, I was fortunate to be near the front seats when Barack ended his speech. This time around, I
shook his hand instead of taking photos.
    April 16 was the day that the Virginia Tech massacre left 33 people killed by a lone gunman. While a grand
campaign rally had been planned — and almost cancelled — the event ended up having Barack sitting on a stool
talking to the audience about violence. In the few hours that he had between the event and his appearance,
Barack put together one of the most thoughtful speeches I had ever heard about violence. Most all of this was said
from the heart and there were no teleprompters present. I think he connected with every single one of us that night
on almost a one-to-one basis. Shortly after that, he was given Secret Service protection.
    I saw Barack three times after that. With his rise in the polls and the crowds growing larger and larger after he
clinched the nomination, Barack wasn’t as accessible. While even we small-publication journalists could get up
front along with the big time photographers to take close-ups of Barack at the beginning, by the time he appeared
on Labor Day in Milwaukee, that privilege was reserved for the big-time press.
    And so now I am left to participate like all of the other millions of Barack Obama supporters out there. I firmly
believe in my heart that Barack is going to win on Tuesday, fulfilling the dreams of generations of African
Americans and others who aspire to serve, but may not look exactly like those who have served in the past Barack
Obama is fulfilling a small part — certainly not all — of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream.
    I want to be a part of history on Tuesday and not be a mere spectator. Along with millions of other hands, I
want to be pulling the proverbial voting lever and casting my vote for Barack. If you exercise your right to vote,
YOU will be a part of history as your vote helps put Barack over the top and provides him with a majority of the
votes cast on November 4. You will be able to tell your children and grandchildren that you helped make history
happen; you helped get the best qualified person elected and he was African American. If you don’t vote, you will
be merely a spectator to history whose memory of it will vanish over time.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                 Will history be made?