America remains the land of opportunity, said Montana’s lone African-American delegate, 26-year-old Anthony Jackson of Helena moments before Sen. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president at Investco Field in Denver.
Craning his neck to see the packed stadium far above his seat on the floor near the stage, Jackson said, “This place is incredible. This is unreal.”
It’s been a groundbreaking week for Jackson, one in which he has thought a lot about Obama’s candidacy, as well as what it’s like to be a black candidate from a predominantly white state like Montana.
“Our family has been in Montana forever, five generations on my mother’s side. It’s one of the most open-minded places. We judge a person by who you are as a person,” Jackson said. He gestured to the other delegates from Montana.
“This delegation speaks volumes about Montana,” he said. With him stood Native Americans and whites, men and women. “If you’re decent, and you treat people with respect, you’ll get the same back, nine times out of 10, and that’s true of most places. It’s true there’s not a lot of African-Americans, black people, in Montana, but people judge you as a person, not only if you’re black, but if you’re different in one way or another.”
There’s a reason this has never happened in any other western country, Jackson said, referring to the nomination going to a black man. “This could happen only in America. You don’t have to be a Kennedy, a Bush or a Clinton. Some people say he shoots too high, shoots too far. Look at what he’s already accomplished. We are good people. We are the land of opportunity.”
“You take a step back and say, ‘Look at this.’ I think it has to excite you as an American. If he can get out who he is, get his story out, he can win Montana,” Jackson said.
Jackson, who grew up in Billings, manages the campaign for Steve Bullock, Democratic candidate for attorney general in Montana.
About Obama’s attention to the state, Jackson said, “It’s big. We’re going to have a president who’s paying attention to us. Usually, we’re taken for granted. He actually cares about Montana’s three electoral votes. I don’t know if morale booster is the right word. He has 50-plus staff on the ground, a ton of offices. That’s a message that’s going to resonate.”