Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008

A Moment in Philadelphia

The most memorable aspect of the race, in my mind, came when Barack Obama stepped back, in Philadelphia, from the standard charge-and-countercharge exchanges of a campaign to take a long look at the problems of race in our history. It was as pivotal as John Kennedy's speech on religion to Protestant ministers in his race for President. But we do not read Kennedy's speech for its content now. I believe Obama's speech will have lasting historical significance, from the moment he could say, as part of a bid for the presidency, that "I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible."

Wills is professor of history emeritus at Northwestern University