Wilder On Obama: Dream Is Alive For All Americans

Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder i

Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder says Barack Obama's election shows kids anything is possible. John Poole/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John Poole/NPR
Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder

Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder says Barack Obama's election shows kids anything is possible.

John Poole/NPR

Barack Obama didn't base his candidacy on race. Still, his victory has been deeply moving to many African-Americans. Among them is Douglas Wilder, Virginia's first black governor and now the mayor of Richmond.

This year, Obama has asked Wilder — who ran for president in 1992 — for his advice. And the older man Obama simply calls "Leader" was among the millions of people who watched Obama's victory speech.

"He touched that tone that I wanted him to touch," Wilder said, "that 'this isn't about me — it's not about an individual.' It's about so many people, whose names will never be called — whose faces will never be seen."

These days, Wilder is the mayor of Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy — and which built statues in honor of Confederate heroes of the Civil War.

Wilder called Obama's election "a catharsis."

"It's spell-breaking, in terms of being able to say to any child in America, 'You can be anything you want to be. It doesn't matter whether you're rich, or whether you're selected, or whether you're Asian, or African — it doesn't matter. You're an American.'

"And what we say by words is now matched by deeds — at the highest possible level," Wilder said. "And excuses can't be tolerated: 'Oh, I can't do this,' or 'We can't do this' — No, no, no, that's forboden, that's gone."

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