- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, there was no escaping the sense Wednesday that a barrier had been overcome.

Across the country, Americans of every political stripe were talking about Democratic Sen. Barack Obama becoming the first black to capture the presidential nomination of a major political party.

“It reminded me of when John F. Kennedy was elected,” said Michael O’Connell, director of the Cypress Park Community Center in Los Angeles.

“I remember waking up that day and my mother telling me Kennedy had won - quite significant for someone with an Irish-Catholic background. I felt like that all over again,” he said.

America witnessed some genuine history, an event which held a spectrum of implications for the nation.

“People really had the sense it was something special. It was a real historic moment, and I think it made them pretty happy, pretty enthusiastic,” said Sonya Ali, who helps manage Ben’s Chili Bowl, the venerable family eatery that has served urban comfort food and provided a forum for local opinions since 1958.

“I could hear our patrons talking, wondering what it would be like to have Obama getting settled into the Oval Office for his first term - and his second term, too,” Mrs. Ali said.

Journalist and historian Richard Brookhiser, author of “George Washington on Leadership,” said Mr. Obama’s victory is historic, but the fall election will determine the extent of its significance.

And whether Mr. Obama becomes president is not necessarily the be-all and end-all.

“When Al Smith got the Democratic nomination as a Roman Catholic in 1928, it was historic. But he didn’t win. Still, it was an achievement, and changed the map of American politics,” Mr. Brookhiser said.

Many saw Mr. Obama’s nomination in larger terms.

“It’s appropriate to savor this moment. This feat by Barack Obama is not about him alone. It could not have happened without a deep thirst for change which resides in the American people. Obama built his campaign around that change and articulated it in a way that was persuasive,” said Ronald Walters, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland.

“People hope that with a change of administration there can reflect a change in attitude about the role of government in political culture - or a change in the image of America overseas,” Mr. Walters said.

Many European observers said the Obama candidacy already had transformed the image of the United States on the continent, an image tarnished by sharp divisions with the Bush administration.

“This result is not just a change of direction for [the United States],” wrote Mario Platero, longtime U.S. editor for the Italian newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore. “It has sent a strong message to the entire world at a moment when the United States seemed fragile and afflicted with grave problems.”

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