The tides of history are rising higher and faster these days. Read them right and ride them, or be crushed. And then along comes Barack Obama, with the kinds of gifts that appear in politics but once every few generations. There is a sense of dignity, even majesty, about him, and underneath that ease lies a resolute discipline. It's not just that he is eloquent -- with that ability to speak both to you and to speak for you -- it's that he has a quality of thinking and intellectual and emotional honesty that is extraordinary.
I first learned of Barack Obama from a man who was at the highest level of George W. Bush's political organization through two presidential campaigns. He described the first-term senator from Illinois as "a walking hope machine" and told me that he would not work for any Republican candidate in 2008 if Obama was nominated. He challenged me to read Obama's autobiography, Dreams From My Father.