Assuming you win, you will be one of a minute number of African Americans in theSenate. Do you feel any pressure to represent black America and not just Tennessee?
There is a great sense of pride when any racial or ethnic group achieves something monumental or historic. Barack’s presence in the Senate is outstanding for two reasons: It ended an unfortunate tradition of there not being a black in the Senate; and it gives Illinois as powerful a voice as any state in the country. Naturally, if I’m elected, there will be a great deal of pride. But I want to go to the Senate to represent my state and represent the country better. I’m not blind to history, but that’s not why I’m running. People in this country have lost faith in their government, in light of all the things that have happened in the last two years. I want to rekindle that hope and confidence that one’s government can and will work for the people. This government, under this president, is failing us on that front.
On a national level, what are some of the things that need to change?
I’m a big supporter of the military. I normally draw criticism from my own party because I support the military in an unapologetic way. But we do the military an injustice when our diplomacy and foreign policy around the globe is as poorly coordinated and as bankrupt of new approaches and ideas as President Bush’s are. Put aside how competitive the world is now; put aside that the rest of the world is educating their workers better than we are. We are resented around the globe, and this president glosses over that in the name of fighting terrorism. How can you wage a global war on terrorism and we’re the only one committed to the fight?
You’ve traveled to the Middle East. What did you discover?
There is an enormous resentment toward America and our interests. It’s very hostile. As the lone superpower in the world right now, America has an enormous opportunity to shape and influence the world community, to respect human rights more, and we are failing on that front. In Africa, we’re not taking the lead when it comes to reducing the threat of HIV/AIDS. Even in the Middle East, our efforts to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, or to win their confidence, is lacking.
Given the widespread hostility, is it even possible to change America’s global image?
I think it’s doable. I’m optimistic and have great hope that we can turn this around. I have great pride in this country. There are still people lining up to get in the U.S., so people recognize the bounty and promise of this nation. After 9-11, America enjoyed such large support from the world, and we’ve watched that support dissolve over the last four to five years in the face of ill-advised decisions made by this administration. But I have great confidence that we can rebuild that support. We have to.