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A Jefferson for Obama

A hornet’s nest was stirred up recently by my public endorsement of Obama as our next president and then again with my recognition during a speech at University of Virginia of the cousins in my family who are descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. (As a member of the Jefferson family at large, I said I am very happy that the family as I’ve known it, grew to include so many new members as a result of the DNA testing in 1998.) Some of the feedback took me to task in very lengthy screeds for those two admissions. Apparently there are a few people who feel a nice white girl like myself ought to know better, which I do. So, I’ll say it again. One at a time though, so it’s clear. This Jefferson family member believes our country will be best served with Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.


Obama has a vision of what our country can do together that is inclusive of everyone. His message is not about who deserves to be helped or how much we might be able to do for those less fortunate. That is the old, well-worn path that is a divisive partitioning and inspires citizens to start assessing each other’s value.

Obama’s words speak to what is possible as we all work together. Not if we work together, but an assumption that we want to and he will lead the efforts. Imagine if we had a system of collaboration rather than competition that left the door wide open for each member of society to participate. It becomes less about haves vs. have nots and more about how everyone can become empowered. Rather than looking to government for sustenance, he says we can turn it around and see what our talents can do to enhance not only ourselves but those around us. A donation of time and talent from every element of society that combines the individual effort into a powerful force and says economic clout no longer trumps everything. What a novel idea.

It’s not so much a Democratic Party ideal as a democratic ideal, which is a nice segue for the other bit of falderal that occurred this week. As was reported by other news sources, I got up on stage at UVA and talked about all of the blessings that have come from meeting my African-American cousins and getting to know them as family. We attend weddings, funerals, send cards and even hang out together – like a family. I even live in New York City in the same building as my cousin, Shannon Lanier, host of Black Enterprise Television and sometimes I come home to find him sitting in my living room. That’s good stuff. We are family, which I will continue to state as often as possible and will marvel every day that such an enormous blessing came my way.

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The boundaries of what defines a family or even a country are as unique as fingerprints and can be as fluid and open as the size of our hearts. But a grudge or a bias can tighten the borders till only a few are still allowed in, while so much opportunity to grow and love is left outside and our lives are made smaller. That would be business as usual, if we allow it.

There’s no backing up here. Occasionally, through national events we, as a nation, are given unique opportunities to shake up the labels we gave ourselves and reinvent to the point where we again believe that anything is possible. This is one of those moments in time and it is not to be wasted. Join me with your voice and your efforts and let’s see what we can all build together. More adventures to follow.


by Martha Randolph Carr

©2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Cari Dawson Bartley at 800 696 7561 or email

Martha Randolph Carr’s latest book, A Place to Call Home is available wherever books are sold. If you’d like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Author’s email: or visit