After 54 primary and caucus contests, and with a 2,156-delegate majority, Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday night declared himself the "Democratic nominee for president of the United States." The historical strides made on Tuesday are monumental. After all, 2008 America is but one generation removed from segregation. Yet we are all witness to a significant historical milestone many Americans did not think they would ever see in their lifetime.
It was just 41 years ago this month that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws that prohibited interracial marriage (the same kind of union that produced Barack Hussein Obama). Born of an illegal union, raised by a single white mother, Mr. Obama has become the first black presidential nominee of a major political party.
Despite our misgivings about some of Mr. Obama's policy positions (which we will continue to examine in future editorials), what American voters have allowed him to accomplish should not go unnoticed. There have been other black candidates, but none received a similar reward.
Though Mr. Obama is currently the only black U.S. senator, he is not the first. That milestone goes to Hiram Revels of Mississippi, a minister and Republican elected to the Senate in 1870. In fact, 16 blacks served in Congress during Reconstruction. There have been only five black senators. (Remember how excited women were when Carol Moseley Braun became the "first" black woman to hold a Senate seat?)
Mr. Obama's life has been marked with milestones even Martin Luther King Jr. may not have imagined - from "first" black president of the Harvard law Review to "accidental" Senate nominee, to securing the largest margin of victory for a statewide race in Illinois histroy, to potential president. King envisioned the day when blacks and whites sat at the same table as equals. Today, the torch is in the hands of Mr. Obama to help lead a new generation of American voters and a new discussion on race in America.
During his post-primary speech on Tuesday, Mr. Obama called his victory a "defining moment for our nation." No truer words could be spoken. Where this moment subsequently leads is, here again, up to American voters. Sen. Hillary Clinton said: "Obama has inspired so many Americans."
No matter the results in November, Mr. Obama will be acknowledged by history as a "first" in American presidential politics. He is a leader who - regardless of one's political persuasion - inspires us all.