The slight young man stood on the dais of the Democratic Convention and began by saying how remarkable it was that he was there. It was July 27, 2004, and the first time the nation had heard from this Kenyan-American, Barack Obama.

Now, nearly three years later, this Illinois senator is running for president of the United States. He hopes to be the Democratic Party’s nominee in 2008.

When Obama ran for the Illinois State Senate, his opponent black Republican Alan Keyes claimed Obama was not black because he was not descended from slaves. Columnist Stanley Crouch seemed to agree, saying Mr. Obama had not “lived the life of a black American.”

The Internet World Wide Web is awash with sites for and against any prospective presidential candidates. But none seem as vicious as those denigrating Barack H. Obama.

Some of the more-often quoted lies about Obama is that he trained in a Madras in Indonesia. True, he lived in that Muslim land before he was 9 years old but attended an American school for oil-company employees, missionaries and other foreigners. A Madras is an Arabic word meaning “school.” It is often used to designate Muslim schools that train terrorists. The word meaning has been stretched beyond just school. He did sit in a few classes, but neither Arabic nor Indonesian were his language.

Others already are spreading a conspiracy theory straight out of the Manchurian Candidate novel, saying he is an advance guard for a Muslim takeover of the United States. Obama is a Christian, and his name happens to come from the Arabic dialect of the Kenya bush country in Africa.

There is too much fear and ignorance in America. It would do every citizen of our great county good to spend a time overseas. See how the majority of the world lives. Learn the depth and beauty of learning a second or third language.

In that Democratic Party convention speech Obama said: “I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters…. I owe a debt to all those who came before me, and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.”

Obama was elected a U.S. senator that fall. He began his career as a community organizer in some of Chicago’s poorest areas. At Harvard University he was the first African-American elected president of the Harvard Law Review in 1992.

In that now famous speech, he went on to say: “The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into RedStates and BlueStates; RedStates for Republicans, BlueStates for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States…. There are patriots who oppose the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq…. We are all one people.”

I love a good biography. I just finished reading Obama’s 1995 book on his early years, the years before Harvard and politics. I recommend it highly: Dreams from My Father, A Story of Race and Inheritance. It is published by Random House Three Rivers Press.

Marian Wright Edelman wrote about this book: “Perceptive and wise, this book will tell you something about yourself whether you are black or white.”

Last year Obama wrote a second book, The Audacity of Hope, Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream. It reminds us not of our differences, but the many things Americans share: common hopes and common dreams.

In The Audacity of Hope, he urges us to remember the values we hold dear. There is a fundamental humility in reading the Constitution. The Constitution’s system of checks and balances, separation of powers make this a great system of government.

The chapter on faith has this passage: “[R]eligious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved–[with those truths] I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized. It came about as a choice … the questions did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

Britt Towery, a retired Baptist missionary, writes for the Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin.

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