January 17, 2019


September 18, 2008


History: What It Felt Like
invesco field and the nomination
August 29, 2008
By Del Walters

Ella Dalton sat, glued to the television, counting the buses. A domestic who spent her life cleaning the houses of people who didn’t look like her, she couldn’t afford the price of a ticket to attend the event in person, and her white bosses wouldn’t give her the time off anyway. Her fear was that not enough people would show up to hear a speech she was told would define the dreams of an entire generation. A speech that she was told would change the way White America looked at Black America. When counting became difficult she prayed.

Then, one by one, the buses started to arrive. She watched as fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers got off the buses, many of them with picnic baskets in hand to watch history. They were not disappointed. They heard a man describe his dream. A dream that one day, America would be different, better, and that the sons of slaves and slave masters would one day walk hand in hand. The day was August 28th, 1963 and the speaker was a young Baptist preacher by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Forty five years later the buses were still coming, only this time those getting off were different. America had changed. They were white, and black, and Asian, rich and poor, young and old. Forty five years later, on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, a kid who’s father was from Africa, and whose mother hailed from Kansas stood before a crowd of 84,000 and accepted the nomination of the democratic party of the United States of America. History had come full circle. Once again the speaker did not disappoint.

This time, however, there were more than buses arriving at Invesco Field in Denver. This time they arrived by bus, limousine, and in some cases helicopter. They were divided not along lines of race, but instead age. A younger generation that had read about the civil rights movement came to see a man running for president who just happened to be black. Those old enough to remember the dogs, and hoses, and lynching’s and “whites only” signs came to witness history.

Isiah Leggett grew up in that segregated South. “I grew up in the racist Jim Crow South,” he told me. “My hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana was located less than fifteen miles from Jenna,” he added referring to the now infamous Jenna Six. Leggett, who is now the County Executive for one of the largest and most successful counties in America, said “He never dreamed he would see this day.” If Barack Obama becomes president, Leggett will be there, because his county houses some of Washington’s wealthiest residents. For Leggett, the time to celebrate was now.

One solitary figure arrived in a stretch white limousine. Slumped over in a wheelchair, he flashed his trademark smile at the mention of a single word. “Champ!” “Muhammad came here because this moment is momentous,” Lonnie Ali told me. “He had to be here,” she continued. Ali should know. It was Ali, who along with King, sacrificed his youth for a country that saw black first and fighter second. Ali spent his prime in prison, rather than take part in a war he opposed. Ali watched as his sacrifice came full circle.

This was more than a presidential speech, or nominating process. This was history. This was one of those times, one of those stories that children will tell their children about. They will remember where they were when they heard these words:
“I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States,” Barack Obama said to thunderous applause that at times was so loud it echoed through the stadium.

And with those words a dream, almost five decades old, was fulfilled. Barack Obama became the first African American ever to be the nominee of a major political party. The recipient of the dream then paid homage to the dreamer, “It is that promise that forty five years ago today brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand gathered on a Mall in Washington before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.” The torch was passed.

Eighty four thousand people watched as history was being made, and unlike forty five years ago, millions more watched on TV, or through the internet, or on their cell phones. Much has changed in forty five years. Much has not. When the speech was over, there were fireworks and platitudes. Some say it was one of the greatest speeches ever given. Others undoubtedly will argue otherwise. Ike Leggett had his own opinion and he offered it without words.

As the fireworks exploded, Leggett could be seen waving a small American flag as if he were a schoolboy reciting the pledge of allegiance for the very first time. He continued to wave his flag long after the fireworks had ended. Many of Leggett’s generation sat in their seats soaking up the moment. Several wept openly.

History has its own judges and what happened here on this night will find its place when and where the time is right. But on this night, two hundred million cracks in a glass ceiling that shackled the sons of slaves and the sons of slave owners were made, and, because of it, there can be no turning back. On this night America was no longer the sum of its separate but unequal parts, but for once appeared to live up to the mantle of “the melting pot” the nation’s founders once dreamed of.

Ella Dalton never lived to see all of the buses arrive. Forty five years is a long time to wait for people who picked cotton, mopped floors, and labored to build a nation that denied them basic human rights. Instead the job of counting those buses was passed on to me and those like me. Those, like Barack Obama, we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before, and left seeking nothing in return. Ella Dalton was my grandmother and I know somewhere, she and the rest of her generation stopped counting.

The stadium was full. Their dream was fulfilled.

Del Walters is an Emmy award-winning investigative reporter, journalist and filmmaker.

19 Responses to “What It Felt Like”
08.29.08 at 9:26 AM
emiliana says:
Look up to give all hope and victory for all notions and race this World.
08.29.08 at 11:05 AM
DeAngelo says:
This was a helluva piece, Del. Sorry I missed while you were out here. Maybe when I get to DC in the fall.
08.29.08 at 3:07 PM
JanN says:
Great historical and personal perspective. I hope you are so right, that no matter the outcome of the election, those cracks Obama made in the glass ceiling will ensure there is no turning back.
08.29.08 at 5:51 PM
RosalindW says:
The thought of seeing someone who actually looks like me get an actual party nomination is excellent homeage to a generation of people that saw only the hardship of a nation that was to be equal in everyway. I thank God for this time. May the dream continue to live.
08.29.08 at 6:46 PM
Tammye Butler says:
Thank you Del. Thank you. Though I wasn’t there to witness it in person, I’m glad you saw what I saw, but more importantly I’m glad, unlike “our” grandmothers, that I was alive to witness it. I was so dismayed at some of the comments by Julienne Malveaux regarding Obama “white washing” his speech. He never spoke more honestly. Obama is running for the United States of America, not just the United States of Black America. I’m black and I’m proud of Obama, and I’m proud to be an American.
09.02.08 at 12:59 PM
cindy says:
i wasn’t there for the speech. but, after reading your article, i feel as though i was there. i have goose bumps and pride that america has made progress.
09.02.08 at 1:00 PM
cindy says:
i wasn’t there for the speech. but, after reading your article, i feel as though i was there. i have goose bumps and pride that america has made progress.
09.03.08 at 12:24 AM
June says:
I had to work the night the Sen Obama speech was broadcasted. Where can a buy a copy of his speech.
09.03.08 at 1:13 PM
DeeDee says:

Here is a link to a copy of Barack Obama’s speech.’s%20speech&st=cse&oref=slogin
09.03.08 at 3:15 PM
Pam says:
I hope Barack Obama’s wins the Presidential Campaign. This will open the doors to all black people all over the world and it is time of change. Being a Londoner I have watch the campaign with great interest. We are rooting for him over the otherside of the “Pond”.
09.04.08 at 10:10 AM
terry glover says:
June and DeeDee,

just to the right of this article is a link to the Obama transcript and more.
Don’t touch that mouse…
09.07.08 at 4:51 PM
J Glenn says:
Kudos, Del! You have captured the feelings of many Americans with your article. There is a sort of calm now in America. Yes, we still have to fight hard to keep the
Dream going, but we have to make sure the children of this generation understands all of the sacrifices made so that they can live the way they do now. Yes, we have a Black man running for President and we should support him whole heartly.
09.10.08 at 12:49 PM
JoAnne Roberts says:
I live in Denver CO. And I have to say, that I am one proud Black Woman. I listened to Barak Obama’s speech and was in tears. He delivered that speech as if it was his last speech ever. Thank You Del Walters for that awesome piece of work that you did
09.11.08 at 9:39 AM

09.11.08 at 9:44 AM
Nora Fagin-Ned says:
Love you Barack & Michelle. How do I get any brochures, literature, bumper stickers, signs or anything with OBAMA OR OBAMA/BIDEN on it.
09.11.08 at 9:59 AM
Miss N says:
My phone number is (863) 885-1707. My address is 780 W. Lincoln Ave., LaBelle, FL 33935. Please send me buttons, bumper stickers, yard signs, etc. Where I live there is absolutely nothing is OBAMA name on it, except my t-shirts I wear everyday!

%d bloggers like this: