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Close to 84,000 people crammed into Denver's 75,000-seat Invesco stadium last Thursday to witness history in the making as Barack Obama, America's first African-American to lead a major party ticket, accepted his nomination from the Democratic Party. People of all creeds and races, of all classes and ages, fought to leave work early, battled frustrated city traffic, survived overcrowded public transit and waited in lines for hours.
Obama's speech focused on keeping the American promise alive. The promise that anyone can make it if they work hard - the promise of opportunity and a secure future. To the working and middle class, such a promise has long been forgotten since their jobs have gone abroad, their wages have been cut and living costs are on the rise. In a time of economic despair, Obama has come to represent hope. His answer? Change.
"We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight. On Nov. 4, we must stand up and say 'Eight is enough,'" said Obama.
Obama went into great detail to share his vision. He spoke of his plan to offer free college tuition for America's soldiers and affordable health care for all Americans. He vowed to end the war in Iraq in a responsible manner, and "finish the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan."
He pledged to get rid of America's dependence on foreign oil and to do everything in his power to lead toward alternative energy in an affordable way. He promised to stop tax breaks for the rich and cut taxes for the middle class.
Obama, a man who gave up offers from prestigious law offices following law school to work for a civil-rights firm, continues to show he is still a man who works for people and not status or a paycheck.
A boy born to a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, whose half-white, half-Indonesian sister married a Chinese-Canadian truly understands how to look beyond things such as race. Obama didn't speak openly of race during his acceptance speech, but he did speak of party unity, and he advised voters not to "make big elections about small things."
"So let us agree that patriotism has no party," Obama stated. "The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America."
One familiar with Obama's speeches expects something not only compelling, but inspirational. Yet, this speech seemed to move the crowd a little more than usual. Maybe it was because this already historical day happened to fall on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. It wasn't so much about hoping as believing. As supporters rose to their feet once more to clap and raise their miniature American flags high in the air, they began to chant, "Yes, we can!" Once a downpour of confetti sashayed through the air and an explosion of fireworks lit up the dark night, thousands of tear-streaked faces looked up toward the sky in awe and anticipation. No doubt some older individuals felt they were getting a second chance to hope once more that King's dream would not only be reinvented, but finally fulfilled.
"I get it," he admitted. "I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington. But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you."
Bays is originally from Tell City and later lived in Newburgh before moving to Denver. Her parents, Harvey and Carol Bays, reside in Tell City.