It's old politics to divide and conquer. It's new politics to reach across those divisions to unify us and to give us hope for a better future. In a nutshell, that's why I support Barack Obama and the change his leadership can bring. He deserves the careful consideration of Alaskans participating in the historical Super Tuesday presidential caucuses.
The Feb. 5 caucuses are historic to Alaskans because for the first time in our political history they will make a difference in who is selected to head the Democratic ticket. They are also historic because if they follow the national trend of the first four caucuses and primaries in 2008, there will be an overwhelming turnout of new voters - primarily new young voters.
These voters, predominantly Obama supporters, have been inspired by a call to service not seen in America for more than two generations. Business and politics as usual have served more to divide up the spoils than to face what needs to be done for a more prosperous and just society. It is no wonder why so many became cynics of a corrupt and gridlocked system. It is exhilarating to witness the enthusiasm of those responding to a new call of responsibility and service to make the changes that will fulfill the promise of America.
Some of us can remember another time. As a Vietnam Vet returning to school, I and my future bride, Susan, joined with many others to embrace the passion and hope of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. for changing a nation. And then, tragically and suddenly, it all changed as we shared the incredible pain and despair of their assassinations within what seemed a lifetime of 62 days. It was, to borrow a phrase sung in Don McLean's "American Pie" - the day the music died. With a divided nation from Nixon to Clinton to Bush, it now seems, thanks to Barack Obama, that we can hear the music again.
It is a music that is heard beyond the long, hard lines of regions, generations, political parties, and race that divide us. It is a music whose chords call people together not from prejudice but from pride of being one people and one nation. It is a music whose lyrics speak to the broadened horizons of possibility. They recount what has been accomplished when we work together. They envision what the future can be if we join together in a common purpose.
We will be a better and stronger America when we link our arms together and address the issues of good jobs, health care, strong families, balancing our budget, energy independence and global warming. We will be a safer and more peaceful world when we bring the terrorists who attacked our country to justice and bring our troops home from an ill-advised war. We will once again be a world leader with a moral voice and actions against genocide and the real weapons of mass destruction of disease, poverty, and ignorance.
As Alaskans we have an opportunity to make a difference, first on Feb. 5 in caucuses to support Barack Obama and then in November to be a part of the transformative change we know we need - so we all can hear the music again.
Tony Knowles is a former Democratic governor of Alaska.