Obama and the Race Factor in America

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Alan Campbell writes, Is the United State ready to elect an African-American present?

Is the United State ready to elect an African-American present? That was the opening question asked to panelists at the Convention Conversations, hosted by YAHOO! POLITICO and The Denver Post and held at the Denver Athletic Club in Denver, Colorado during the Democratic National Convention (DNC). The atmosphere for this forum was on the roof top of the Denver Athletic Club. Moderators John F. Harris, Editor in Chief of Politico, and Susan Greene, Metro Columnist for the Denver Post, asked various other questions to panelists who were experts in the area of politics and the African American experience. The panelists included Jim Clyburn, House Majority Whip; Douglas Wilder, Former Virginia Governor; Jessie Jackson Jr., Illinois Representative; Travis Smiley, author/media personality; and Dr. Cornel West, author. As a 12-year-old student, it is difficult for me to comprehend why race would be such a big factor in America politics. Yes, I have read, heard from my parents and, to some extent, learned in social studies class, how race has impacted this country and that that race has been, and can be, difficult for Americans to deal with. But should the color of one’s skin really be a factor in the presidential race in American in 2008? From the panelists, unfortunately, it seems that race may still be a factor for some American voters.Sitting on the rooftop of the Denver Athletic Club on such a clear, crisp morning, and listening to the panel, I looked around the room and did not see any other kids my age attending the forum. I wished there had been, because I believe it is time for our generation to start asking for an opportunity to participate in the key discussions about race in America. We need to understand the impact of race from the past, but also let others know how we deal with race today, in our schools, in our neighborhoods and with our friends. Of the panelist, I could most identify with Rep. Jackson, Jr. who stated that he has seen a generation shift in politics, especially since working with his father’s campaign. “People are putting too high expectations on politics,” said Mr. Smiley. He said that if people are currently getting evicted from their homes today, they must realize that no matter who is elected, they can not save you from a financial crisis the day after the election. I was able to speak with Governor Wilder prior to the forum and, as the first African American Governor in the United States, he told me that when he was governor, he made his state the richest state in the nation by investing funds. To me, race should not have been a factor in Governor Wilder’s success. He was doing what any good leader does — lead.Regardless of who you want as the next United States President, I would encourage you to encourage those in your family who can vote, to look beyond race and vote for the candidate that has the best skills to lead this country for the next four years.I would like to hear how you think we as teenagers can prevent race from becoming a factor in this year’s presidential election.