Speakers' words felt by every American

Published July 29, 2004

Janee Murphy, chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, stood on the floor of Boston's FleetCenter Tuesday night and watched as a virtual unknown energized delegates of the party's national convention.

"He is awesome. He is amazing," Murphy exclaimed Wednesday.

Minutes after the roaring applause subsided, James Ransom called delegate friends from his Tampa home to get their reaction to the powerful message delivered by Barack Obama, the self-described "skinny kid with a funny name." The consensus: The speech had soared far and above the usual political rhetoric.

Said Ransom: "He's so far out there it's incredible."

On the other side of Tampa, tears welled in the eyes of longtime attorney Delano Stewart as he listened to the eloquence of a man whose message and background seemed to reflect an entire nation.

"I wanted to go put on my uniform and salute him," said Stewart, an Army veteran.

Frank Sanchez, a John Kerry adviser and former Tampa mayoral candidate, went to a Florida delegate breakfast in Boston on Wednesday and said everyone was talking about the hope the son of an immigrant had delivered.

"One word: electric," Sanchez said.

At Fuchsia, a black-owned restaurant in downtown Tampa, the speech's inspiration permeated lunch-time conversations.

"They said they haven't heard an awakening speech like that in a long time," said Jetie B. Wilds, Fuchsia co-owner and host of the Citizens' Report on WTMP-AM 1150.

Even Todd Schnitt, a conservative syndicated radio host based in Tampa, had to concede this is a man with a successful political future.

"Of course, as far as ideology I didn't agree with everything he had to say, but he was riveting and phenomenal," Schnitt told his listening audience Wednesday.

If you haven't figured it out yet, someone special happened Tuesday.

Obama, 42 and likely the next U.S. senator from Illinois, gave a keynote speech not just for the Democratic Party, but for America. The buzz of his heartfelt sincerity and poignant personal story began reverberating across the nation.

The son of a Kenyan immigrant and Kansas native, Obama is the product of a interracial marriage. His Ivy League pedigree - degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School - belies his humble upbringing. A University of Chicago law professor and state senator, Obama carries considerable political and legal experience.

But on Tuesday, he was simply a son of the United States. He was us. All of us.

"I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my precious daughters," Obama said. "I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."

Time and again, Obama offered a vision that transcended everything: race, creed, color, party politics and social and economic strata.

"The pundits like to slice and dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States.

"There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

In essence, Obama preached about reviving the unite in United States. And his method was as magnificent as his message. Wilds said he brought back all the things we believe in but made it all sound fresh. He wasn't Martin Luther King. He wasn't Jesse Jackson. He was uniquely Barack Obama.

Said Stewart: "He didn't speak to my civil rights group, he didn't speak to Martin's group or Jesse's group. He spoke to the world as it is today and the world that will be."

Many see Obama as a man who could some day be America's first black president, but Sanchez corrected: "He's a man who could be president. Period."

Whether you're Democrat or Republican, black or white, young or old, if you missed the launching of Barack Obama, you need to go to C-SPAN.com and witness the video for yourself. He isn't a shooting star, but a flaming comet certain to light up our skies for years to come.

That's all I'm saying.

- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 813 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com