| Senate candidate Barack Obama, seen as a politician who may one day become America’s first Black President, addresses the Democratic convention in Boston. Obama spoke about the “improbable love” between his African father and White mother and his own unlikely rise in the Democratic party. (Reuters)
Boston, July 28: Namaste! The unlikely late night speaker at the Democratic National Convention here ended his speech with folded hands, not the usual “God bless you” or “God bless America”, the US equivalent of “Jai Hind”.
Then he went round the semi-circular speaker’s podium with folded hands, greeting assembled Democrats in the circular hall, who stood up and gave him an ovation that appeared unending. He was not South Asian. Indeed, he was White.
The unlikely speaker at the convention which will tomorrow nominate John Kerry as the man to challenge President George W. Bush in the November election was Ron Reagan, son of America’s 40th President Ronald Reagan.
The middle-aged son of the former President, who was the torch-bearer of modern day conservatism in America and is still an icon for Republicans, shocked members of his late father’s party by agreeing to speak at the Democratic National Convention.
Ron Reagan, an atheist in his forties with a Buddhist wife, acknowledged his unlikely presence among Democrats when he addressed them last night. “A few of you may be surprised to see someone with my last name showing up to speak at a Democratic convention… We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology. This is our moment and we must not falter”.
His presence among Democrats enthused them. Former President Reagan died just one month ago and images of his funeral and expressions of national grief are still fresh in American minds.
Ron Reagan, who has been urging Americans in recent television appearances to vote against Bush, did not,however, name Kerry in his speech or ask Americans to specifically vote for Kerry. He did not have to. He said he was appearing at the convention to canvass support for stem cell research, which is crucial in efforts to find cure for Parkison’s disease and Alzheimer’s, from which the late Republican President suffered for at least a decade.
Ron Reagan asked Americans to vote for stem cell research, which Kerry supports and Bush strongly opposes.
As he addressed Democrats, there was another setback for Republicans from the Reagan family. Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie told reporters yesterday that Nancy Reagan, widow of the former President, may not attend next month’s Republican National Convention in New York.
She has been upset with Bush for his opposition to stem cell research, which the Reagan family believes may have helped them cope with Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s. It is widely believed that her son would not have addressed Democrats yesterday without Nancy Reagan’s explicit sanction.
Democrats also last night presented to the world their man who may one day become America’s first Black President. Barack Obama, 42, is the son of a Kenyan goatherd who migrated to America and settled in Hawaii. Obama recalled last night that his grandfather was a servant to a British family in Kenya. Obama got a scholarship to study at Harvard Law School, but instead of going into lucrative areas of legal practice, he chose to become a civil rights lawyer and community activist in Chicago.
He is now contesting for the US Senate from Illinois, where he has no opponent after his Republican rival, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race after his wife accused him of forcing her into group sex.
If elected in November, Obama will become the only Black member of the Senate and the fifth Black Senator in all US history.
Obama was chosen as the four-day convention’s keynote speaker with an eye on African Americans, who are expected to overwhelmingly vote for Kerry in November.