Obama Takes On Manhattan


A crowd of thousands looked on as Barack Obama spoke at his rally at Washington Square Park on Sept. 27.. (Charlotte Canner/The Observer)

Published: October 11, 2007

Whether an ardent supporter or a contemptuous detractor of 2008 presidential hopeful Barack Obama, anybody who bore witness to his bravura Sept. 27 campaign speech at Washington Square Park cannot deny the fact that this young Illinois senator clearly has chutzpah. A considerable amount of chutzpah for that matter, so much so that after rapper Kanye West presented Senator Obama to the massive crowd, Obama delivered a defiant speech consisting of his unique intentions for his potential presidency and biting criticisms regarding the Bush administration. Not surprisingly, the only prominent boos of the night came whenever the current president’s name was mentioned.

Your humble reporter was in observance of this event and found the junior senator’s words striking in their concise advocacy for a change within our nation. Aside from his remarks, this rally also served as a congregation for Obama fans who waited for hours on line just to see him, as celebratory campaign pins were sold and “I O NY” signs were displayed ubiquitously throughout the rally. Throughout the course of the night, this Democratic presidential candidate incited cheers amongst his listeners, all the while maintaining an illustrious rock star aura as he gallantly strode across the stage. And although a massive bevy, consisting of both local New Yorkers and out-of-towners, was in attendance, which was more then enough supporters to turn the likes of Hillary Clinton green with envy, I still could not help but consider what would actually be accomplished by Obama’s rousing New York City speech. Will this event really prove beneficial for his campaign?

Perhaps it will, for, if anything, Obama did in fact sway the convictions of at least one individual within the large mass of people that night. Before attending the rally, I found myself on the fence in terms of my attitudes towards this candidate. Roughly midway through his speech, however, I was in total support of his campaign.

“Don’t you think it’s about time we made college affordable for every single American?” he inquired of his audience. Indeed, Obama, a Columbia University and Harvard Law alum, did not shy away from issues concerning collegiate-aged students, with particular focus toward the ever-growing costs of attending institutions of higher academic learning. “Let’s take financial services out of the college loan process,” he added, much to the delight of his predominantly youthful audience.

But there are other issues at hand, which this Illinois senator successfully addressed while speaking at this rally. When so many U.S. politicians turn a blind eye to the crisis in Darfur, Obama vehemently pledged an end to such genocide. He also addressed our nation’s oil dependency, he vowed to permanently close the prisons at Guantanamo, and he also spoke frankly about Sept. 11 and the Iraq War. “We remember 9/11…after the horrific events just a few miles away…And we said to ourselves we are going to change, and the world said we will change with you to prevent such a travesty from happening once again. And we frittered all that good will away,” he said.

It was, however, what Obama had to say of our nation’s enemies which resonated with me the most. “We cannot just talk to our friends, we also have to talk to our enemies,” he reasoned to an audience which roared in a positive response. While some politicians, such as Sen. Clinton, might label Obama’s position as naïve, I would argue that such a stance is actually quite the opposite.

Obama might certainly provide the impression of a risky candidate to endorse. Clinton, his rival Democratic opponent, who reportedly fundraised $7 million more than Obama during the third quarter of this year, called him naïve in regards to his foreign policies. Other politicians have labeled him inexperienced as a suitable leader for our nation. Then there is the issue of race.

A wide array of individuals, whether it be my ultra liberal Fordham friends or some of my more conservative relatives from Texas, have consistently informed me that “this country is not ready for a black president.” Over the course of the last several months, I have heard this remark stated over and over again ad nauseam, but what the hell is that comment supposed to mean exactly? Our country is not willing to vote for a man simply due to the color of his skin? Many others have also observed that Southern voters will never vote for him as a result of his race.

Well, cynics be damned, Obama still has a chance at the White House, regardless of social prejudices. This nation, both overtly and constantly, touted blacks as inferior to whites We  now liken ourselves as progressive freedom fighters, when, in reality, it is evident that nationwide racism has now manifested itself into a cunningly latent form throughout our society. If our country is not ready for a black president, then when will it ever be?

In his closing remarks, Obama asked his devoted listeners to take a leap of faith in their support for him. Both clever and rational, he certainly remains aware of the problematic facets of his campaign which lie ahead.

In the end, he ultimately challenged his audience by asking if they were ready to take a risk in order to change the current system. Indeed, perhaps it is time for all of us to sacrifice our comfort within the establishment and take a risk on an entirely new type of candidate.