- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

MIAMI | Alonzo Mourning stopped in a District pharmacy to pick up a few items, when something unusual caught the basketball star’s eye.

For sale: Barack Obama shot glasses.

Back in March 2007, when records show Mourning made his first donation to the Obama campaign, the retired Miami Heat center simply couldn’t imagine such a thing. Then he saw Obama lure a gargantuan crowd for a campaign stop in Berlin, followed by massive turnouts at the Democratic National Convention, and Mourning really began believing that victory could happen.

“Truly amazing,” Mourning said. “I mean, truly amazing the following he had.”

And on Tuesday, Mourning will be part of that following.

He will be among the millions in the District to see Obama become the nation’s 44th president and the first black man to hold the office, a milestone event that generations of minorities in this country probably believed would never come.

“You think of the historical significance behind an African-American leading the free world,” Mourning said Saturday from the District. “I mean, just think of that. It’s truly reason to celebrate.”

Mourning and his family arrived in the District on Friday. On Sunday, 50 students and chaperones were supposed to leave Miami on a bus that Mourning - who has spent years working with disadvantaged children in South Florida and has raised millions through his Alonzo Mourning Charities - paid for so they could see the inauguration as well.

“Man, you want all kids to see this,” Mourning said. “You really do. You want them all to see this. … You really want all young people to see the significance of this and help them understand the significance of our new leadership. More importantly, I want my own children to see it. That’s why we’re here. And I’m really looking forward to Tuesday.”

Mourning - who some believe will one day have political aspirations - and Obama have met several times. Mourning hosted a fundraiser for Obama at the Overtown Youth Center in Miami in 2007, then introduced the eventual president-elect at another event at a club on South Beach on the same evening.

Mourning and his wife, Tracy Wilson Mourning, hosted Obama rallies at several colleges and universities across Florida, talking to first-time voters about the significance of casting ballots.

“Man, this is so special to see a man bring different races, from a global perspective, from all over the world, bring them together to stimulate positive change,” Mourning said. “We understand that he can’t do this by himself, that he’s going to need everyone’s support in this and he’s explained that.

“All I’ve got to do is follow my heart, believe in my heart that I’m supporting and doing what’s right and I’m doing what’s going to help others in the process,” Mourning added. “It ain’t about me. It’s a much bigger picture than me and what I have to say. It’s about so many other people that are dealing with some of the issues that America’s going through right now.”

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