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Let optimism, hope vanquish gloom, doom


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Casting a dark shadow over the campaign promises of change and reform is a dreary word that has dogged both presidential candidates.

Death.

Maybe it's just another trickle in the endless stream of gloom and doom that fills our daily headlines, but speculation about the premature passing of John McCain and Barack Obama has long simmered below the surface of their candidacies.

For McCain, it's his age and health. If elected, the 72-year-old Arizona senator would be the oldest first-term president in U.S. history. His health problems have included skin cancer, kidney stones and injuries suffered while a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Bloggers question whether he really is cancer-free and speculate whether he could survive the rigors of the White House, even for one term.

“;You read different things about his health,”; said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College. “;And then that is reinforced when you see him in ... the debates when he looks older.”;

In the case of Obama, it's the specter of assassination. Supporters worry that racist hate-mongers would resort to radical measures to stop the Illinois senator from becoming the first black president.

A Google search of “;assassination of Barack Obama,”; yields 15.2 million results.

  Back in August, police arrested three men accused of plotting to kill Obama at the Democratic National Convention. Officials alleged the white supremacists planned to shoot Obama, but later charged them only with drug and weapons violations.

For many black supporters, there is anxiety that he will be killed.

“;It is on people's minds,”; said Princeton University political science professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell this year.

Madonna said there is “;still a lot of disbelief in the black community that a black man can get elected.”; Many African-Americans “;fear that something will happen, that he will get robbed or cheated out of the election somehow and denied the presidency,”; he said.

Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and a Democrat, said that Obama and McCain knew the risks of running for the presidency and that in a post-9/11 world they are well-protected.

“;I'm just hearing that folks are genuinely excited about the possibility of an Obama-Biden presidency,”; he said.

Talking about the death of our new president before he even takes office is depressing. Predicting his early demise, be it from age, poor health or hatred, dampens the anticipation and enthusiasm that always accompany a new administration.

  I was reminded of that this past weekend. My family and I visited Washington, D.C., and one of the highlights was the Lincoln Memorial. Standing in the middle of the breathtaking memorial and reading President Lincoln's inspiring words from his second inaugural address, I was filled with a renewed sense of hope. Spoken more than 142 years ago, they are relevant today.

“;With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”;

Reading those uplifting words reminded me of the optimism that new leadership can and should bring our nation - whoever wins.

But, at the same time, looking at the sadness chiseled into the marble visage of the great Abraham Lincoln was a stark reminder of his demise. We wonder about the early death of our next president for a reason: It has happened before.

I am ready for new leadership, and I await it eagerly. And whoever wins, I pray he lives a long and full life. The only thing I want to die is the doom and gloom that seem to grip us all right now. And that death can't come soon enough.

 

Anne McGraw Reeves writes for Newhouse News Service.