Last night, I was one of 100,000 people gathered at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas, Va. to see Sen. Barack Obama wind up his general election campaign in the same state where he started it — Virginia. I’ve never been so happy to spend so much time in a Northern Virginia traffic.
One of the 100,000 gathered with me was a young man who was a former Marine helicopter pilot and Naval Academy graduate from Warren, Pa., a small town in the state’s northwestern corner near Erie. I didn’t catch his name, but I got his story.
He told me that he had voted for John McCain in 2000 and had contributed to the McCain campaign. When I asked him why he wasn’t supporting McCain again and how he managed to find himself at Barack Obama’s final campaign rally before Election Day, he laughed. “Where do you want me to begin? The war, the economy… so many things need to change.”
This young man was not voting for Barack Obama because he was a Democrat. He was voting for Obama because he was looking for solutions. “All I’ve seen from McCain is meaningless attacks.”
To me, that’s what the Obama coalition is. A coalition of those seeking solutions. Increasingly, voters are not interested in what Tom Brokaw calls, “partisan food fights,” but are really looking for leaders who can bring us together and solve problems.
As I stood at the fairgrounds last night and this morning in Manassas, I pondered the horrible battles fought in that town during the Civil War and how stunned the people of that time would be if they knew then that our country was about to elect a black man our president.
Those battles and that war tore our country apart. But I remembered last night, that a young former state legislator from Illinois with only one term in Congress inspired our nation to come back together.
Last night, I saw another young former Illinois state legislator with just a term in Congress. He inspired me and 100,000 gathered. And over the last 20 months, he’s inspired a nation.
History has come full circle.