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A Fundamental Choice

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

When you cast a vote for the President of the United States of America on November 4, 2008, you will be doing something far greater than just electing someone to the occupy greatest office in the land. You will be making a fundamental choice about the direction of our country for the next generation or more. For most voters, it will be the biggest political decision they have never made, a decision that runs deeper than politics to the fundamental character of our nation for the foreseeable future.

It comes down to two perspectives. Do you vote for a far less experienced candidate whose election will not only make history here in America, but send a message to the world about our social progress? Or, do you vote for the more experienced, status quo, candidate capable of maintaining America’s dominance as a world power?

The decision for some of you will be easy. You lean either so far left or to the right that the idea of jumping party lines is not even a question. You will walk into a church, or school or community center later this year and cast your vote without batting an eye. However, many of us – millions of us actually –are somewhere in the middle, and could provide the deciding difference in the outcome in the election. It is upon your shoulders that this choice weighs most heavily.

Is it more important to you that we demonstrate to the world that Martin Luther King’s dream has become a reality? Is the message that we have finally arrived at a colorblind society, in which those of humble origins and various ethnicities can break through barriers and rise to the top of your foremost priority? Is the equitable division of the American pie what you are aiming for? Or could it be that we are in a time in which expanding the pie, consolidating our gains and shoring up our nation’s security is more important at this juncture in our nation’s history.

John McCain might present a better choice if you care about the safety, security, and superiority of our country. He is experienced, confident, and knowledgeable in just about every issue that could arise. McCain is obviously not the flashiest or the most charismatic candidate, but earns respect and admiration for his willingness to stand his ground, speak the truth, and do the unpopular, yet necessary job of protecting America’s interests at home and abroad.

Senator Barack Obama might present a better choice if you care about changing course, progressing beyond limits previously viewed as impossible, or jump-starting our nation’s idealistic spirit. He is young, energetic, and claims to be a Washington “outsider”. But most importantly, he is an American who happens to be black and white. As the first, of a mix race marriage to be elected President, he could drastically change race relations at home and abroad. The message sent by his election could go a long way in helping to mend relationships and bridge gaps with foreign governments and the global community as a whole. He could literally, with just one day in the Oval Office, give everyone more hope and re-dedicated commitment for a better future regardless of their current lot in life.

No one worth their salt could say that Mr. Obama is unqualified to run our country. Arguably less experienced candidates have provided outstanding leadership in the role of President. It may be, however, that he is not as qualified as his probable opponent, John McCain. The question comes down to who one would you vote for if race were not a factor.

But the bottom line is that, in this Presidential election, race matters. It is almost impossible to separate Obama from his race, because that is part of his appeal to voters. Conversely, McCain, despite his other qualifications, may be hindered by the perception that his candidacy represents the old-boy network of white men that have run this country since its inception.

In making the choice this November, closely observing the character of the candidates would go a long way in cutting through the superficial perceptions that divide us as Americans. Either way, your vote in this election will set the course of this nation for a long time to come.

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