Tonight Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democratic party to become president of the USA.  The first time in history, an African American accepted the nomination from one of the two main contending parties for the presidency on November 4th, 67 days from today.  It happened at the day that 45 years ago Martin Luther King held his famous ‘I had a dream speech’ for a stadium in Denver filled to the top with 85.000 exhilarated supporters.  An historic milestone in the transformation of the American society, something the civil rights movement long struggled for.  What an atmosphere, what a speech, what a privilege to witness this event!  When did it happen that a politician would draw 85.000 people for a speech?  And not only tonight in Denver, all over America people assembled in large public gatherings around big tv screens to watch the speech.

Obama has evidently touched a nerve under significant sections of the American people who hunger for change of the divisionary ways in which politics is conducted, of the failure of the political elite to address the concerns of large sections of the populations, and of the cynicism that dominates much of the current political discourse.  Obama is reviving the promise of the American dream of which he and his wife Michelle are the embodiment.  His eloquence, his convictions, his conversational style, and his radiating energy are providing people with hope over fear. Fear that is fed by the economic crises, by the lack of access to health care and retirement provisions, by the threats of global warming and by the terrorist treats.

For me, the fascinating aspect of Obama is the combination of inspiration he instills in people and the clear political platform he communicates.  Often communicating political priorities is boring and people are turned off instead of turned on.  Obama definitely succeeds in turning on people and reviving interest in politics.  You do not need to agree with him to recognize this specific quality of Obama.  Four years ago, I heard him deliver his first national speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston.  The speech was an instant hit and his talent became known.   He was running for a seat in the US Senate and was subsequently elected.  Who would ever have predicted or imagined that within four short years he would rise to the nomination for the presidency of the United States, that he would be able to beat the campaign of the experienced Clintons, a truly remarkable achievement of unprecedented scale.

In the speech he presented his approach towards the role of government and underlined the responsibility of the individual as a harmonic relationship, stressing the individual and mutual responsibility.  He went on to spell out the changes he will bring, prioritizing tax reform, becoming independent from foreign oil in 10 years, first class education and making health care assessable and affordable for all Americans.  In foreign affairs he projected himself to be a strong leader but failed to be more specific about the change in future American leadership he intends to pursue.  The speech was clearly scripted to address the American voters and to set the tone for the presidential campaign that shall be fought in the next two month.  Next week, the Republican party will hold its Convention that will give John McCain the opportunity to present his political programme.

While the Democratic Convention and Obama’s appeal created much enthusiasm, the race for the White House is certainly not decided yet.  All polls continue to indicate a very close contest.  I shall try to explain why this is in one of the next blogs.   It is an intriguing question because at the surface Barack Obama has much to go for a clear win.  Overwhelming support among the young generation and the minorities, a 4 million large on-line grassroots movement , a very disciplined campaign organization and record financial contributions that total already US$ 400 million today.  8 out of 10 American want change, which is the slogan of the Obama campaign.  He outnumbers McCain in media attention by a ration of 2 : 1 or more.  It appears that Obama can actually only loose the elections.  The challenge for the Democratic party will be to make it a competition between Obama and McCain and not one of Obama against Obama.   This was precisely what the Convention tried to do this week.  It was a perfectly organized and choreographed event that generated boundless energy and confidence that with hard work the White House can be won in the forthcoming presidential elections.