Vote for hope
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Back on June 20, I endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president of the United States. At the time I was impressed by his ability to break through the cynicism associated with politics.
Today, I am awestruck by the degree to which Mr. Obama has been able to do this, but even more so by the way he has inspired a generation of young Americans often characterized as superficial, narcissistic or careless. The fervor that Mr. Obama has tapped among young professionals, college students, athletes and entertainers is remarkable. What I find especially moving is the enthusiasm he is generating among young African Americans, who often are stereotyped as hopeless or aimless, or thugs.
Barack Obama has re-discovered a so-called "lost" generation of inner-city youth who, through him, have re-discovered a sense of purpose in themselves and of faith in this nation.
My experiences with these young people over the past several months prompted me to write this final appeal to the American people, just two days before the national election, to ask you to join me in voting for Barack Obama on Nov. 4.
Rosa sat so Martin could walk; Martin walked so Obama could run; Obama is running so our children can fly!
This was a text message from a 19-year old single mother from McKeesport that I received at about 9 p.m. on a recent Friday night. It was my "aha moment," when I knew something truly amazing was happening before my eyes.
Suddenly I started to notice the young guys with the oversized baseball caps, low-hanging pants and colorful sneakers wearing Barack Obama T-shirts. At the corner store or the club I found myself talking politics with people who had never watched a political debate prior to Sept. 26.
Soon I met an incredible group of young people doing voter registration, knocking on doors and making phone calls to get out the vote. This inspiring group includes teen-age mothers, Job Corps students and the formerly incarcerated. Most will admit that this will be the first they vote. Many were not registered themselves until this month and never cared about politics until recently.
I have watched these young people transform from devout apathy to believing that they can really make a difference in their troubled communities. For the first time in many of their lives, they have hope and faith in their futures and are ready to serve a cause greater than themselves.
Obama for mankind, we ready for damn change so y'all let man shine!
-- Young Jeezy from the song "My President"
Over the last 10 to 20 years, many leaders have tried unsuccessfully to motivate young people from the inner city to overcome the many challenges they face. The vast majority of these appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
Most young people have lost the reverence they once held for faith leaders, civic leaders and political leaders. If my generation ever had a leader it would have been Tupac Shakur, until now. Barack Obama has somehow inspired young African Americans and gained their confidence and respect.
While the lectures of the Al Sharptons, Jesse Jacksons and Bill Cosbys have alienated our young people at times, Mr. Obama has found a way to embrace them and be a role model. Mr. Obama is making it "cool" for our young people to be intellectual, articulate and poised.
This is truly significant for a generation of young people who often view these qualities as negative traits. He is uniquely positioned to challenge our young people to be better parents, active citizens and future leaders.
Mr. Obama appears to be our best hope to help rescue these young people from the perils of poverty, crime and low expectations. I cannot imagine a more noble cause in these days and times.
Over the last two decades, inner city youth have been demonized, chastised and written off. To be fair, these young people bear as much responsibility as their elders for the challenges they face.
Now, at a time when our future as a nation is in doubt, it is inspiring to see our young people rising above their own cynicism and hopelessness. Even more moving is the way our youth have embraced Mr. Obama's qualities and now see their own potential for excellence through him.
We have a unique opportunity to seize this moment in our country's history. A vote for Mr. Obama is a vote for our young people who have been cast away and forgotten. It is a vote for excellence, intelligence and service. It is a vote for responsibility, respect and hope. It is a vote for a lost generation that might now have been found.
First Published November 2, 2008 2:52 pm