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Obama’s first general election commercial — released on Juneteenth

By pams
Friday, June 20, 2008 2:30 EDT
 

The Obama campaign has tapped North Carolina as one of the states to air this ad; it’s been Red at the presidential level, but NC’s in play this time around. It will also run in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia.

I’m Barack Obama.

America is a country of strong families and strong values. My life’s been blessed by both.

I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. We didn’t have much money, but they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland where they grew up. Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses. Treating your neighbor as you’d like to be treated. It’s what guided me as I worked my way up – taking jobs and loans to make it through college.

It’s what led me to pass up Wall Street jobs and go to Chicago instead, helping neighborhoods devastated when steel plants closed.

That’s why I passed laws moving people from welfare to work, cut taxes for working families and extended health care for wounded troops who’d been neglected.

I approved this message because I’ll never forget those values, and if I have the honor of taking the oath of office as President, it will be with a deep and abiding faith in the country I love.

The interesting thing about this particular ad is that it emphasizes Senator Obama’s upbringing in Kansas and the Midwestern values of his family — illustrated by using photos of him with his white grandparents, relatives who have not been as prominently featured, for instance, as his wife and children.

It’s healthy at this time in the campaign to remind people out there being bombarded with slime efforts to evoke images of an “Afro-Leninist,” a Muslim terrorist, or a Black Radical Trojan Horse, when the real Barack Obama is part of a growing, vibrant mosaic in America. Not a post-racial America, but one with a population that is becoming harder to racially or ethnically categorize — and thus harder to politically divide.

We cling to the human need to place people in identity cubbyholes for our own comfort and defense, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve seen a lot of poisonous political strategy that preys on that, particularly regarding race this year. The images in the ad are satisfying because they are so self-correcting — or perhaps a better word might be recalibrating — by reminding us about the whole picture of Obama’s heritage.

That picture is what others would rather ignore or play down because it doesn’t fit their demonization playbook.

***

Obama also took time to recognize that today is Juneteenth, the day commemorating the actual end of slavery in this country (June 19, 1865).

“On this day, one hundred and forty-three years ago, Union soldiers reached the final outposts of the Southwest with news that the Civil War had ended; that the words of Lincoln’s proclamation would be made real; that the very ideals of liberty, justice, and equal citizenship under the law embedded in the Constitution were closer to being fully realized. On Juneteenth, hundreds of thousands of Americans were delivered from bondage as America finally reclaimed her dignity.

“We pause to remember Juneteenth because it is a poignant reminder that words on a parchment are not always enough; that we the people must always be willing to do our part to ensure that all citizens, regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation are equal heirs to the boundless opportunity America has to offer.

“We pause to remember that our nation has made tremendous progress, but has many miles to go on the long march toward finally fulfilling the ideals of this country. When too many Americans go without affordable healthcare or a quality education; when neighborhoods unravel due to a housing market in crisis; when special interests hold their thumbs on the scale of opportunity; we have more work to do.

“Juneteenth is a day for celebration of freedom and family, but also a day that calls us all to rededicate ourselves to the convictions at the heart of our American experiment. It reminds us that with the work of each successive generation, we come closer to the realization of that more perfect union.”

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