Win or lose, whatever happens next, Barack Obama is now established as one of those rare, courageous teachers who leads the country onto new ground. He has given us a way to talk about race and our other differences with the clarity and honesty that politics does not normally tolerate. Whether this hurts or helps his presidential prospects is not yet clear, but he has done this for us and it will change the country, whatever the costs to him.
His words should discourage the media frenzy of fear-driven gotcha. His speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday may also make the Clintons re-think their unsubtle exploitation of racial tension. But nobody knows the depth or strength of the commonplace fears streaming through the underground of public feelings. No one can be sure of what people will hear in Obama’s confident embrace, beckoning Americans in all their differences, leaving out no one, to a better understanding of themselves.