I live in Washington DC, and my quotidian observation has typically been that race matters, and matters a lot. So many photos and cartoons and reactions from around the world to the Obama election and yesterday's White House walk through seem to dote on the unthinkable: a black man in the White House. What that says is that race might matter, but a lot less than I thought.
First, education matters. Barack Obama attended Occidental and Columbia as an undergraduate and Harvard Law School. That education oozes out of him in every declaration. His eloquence may be a natural part of his genetic makeup, but the content contained in every proposal and every version of the stump speech is clearly the product of a well-trained mind. His poise and cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor likewise suggest the benefits of a challenging education.
So education trumps race.
Second, family matters. The Obama girls stole the show at the Democratic National Convention, and Michelle Obama is an incredible example of a spouse simultaneously supportive and yet successful in her own right. Barack Obama's unusual upbringing (Hawaii-Indonesia-Hawaii-Los Angeles-New York-Chicago) and complicated family relations are marked repeatedly by the willingness of family members to come together to help raise a young man. Obama himself demonstrated similar loyalties when he took days off in the middle of a tight election to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii, a move validated when she died on the eve of his election.
Family values trumps race as well.
And so, a perfect role model regardless of race: work hard in school and be true to your family.