EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

January 22, 2008

Presidential race serves as proof of the change MLK represents

MANCHESTER - It was said many times at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral yesterday: Martin Luther King Jr. wanted people to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

The country has come a long way since the days of King, especially in the candidates for president. A woman and a black man are two leading contenders.

In the fight for the White House, race does seem to matter among Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Clinton is trying to recruit votes from blacks, which helped her husband win the presidency. But she's also miffed some blacks by saying that President Lyndon Johnson and government action, not King, were responsible for civil rights being enacted for blacks.

When New Hampshire voters of different cultures gathered yesterday to celebrate King's birthday, many agreed that race does not matter to them when it comes to the next president. In fact, they said having a woman who is serious about being president also fits into King's dream.

Two weeks ago, people were given the chance to vote for a woman, a Hispanic or a black candidate in the state's first-in-the-nation primary, Gov. John Lynch told the crowd yesterday.

"I'd like to think they didn't notice, but focused on the quality of the individual," Lynch said. "That's what MLK wanted."

Lynch's speech echoed what some people said during interviews at a luncheon preceding the event presented by the Martin Luther King Coalition.

Sister May Cronin, a member of the Sisters of Mercy in Windham, said informed voters won't cast their choices based on whether they are ready for a black president.

"I hope we've gone beyond that," she said. "It's about who is most qualified."

Casey Blais of Londonderry said regardless of whether Obama wins, the fact he is in the presidential race still means progress is being made.

"It's time for a black candidate to make a big, big showing," she said.

Karen Hagan, also of Londonderry, quickly followed up Blais' comments, saying it also is time for a woman to make a showing.

The issue of race doesn't matter to Jeanette Caynon of Pelham.

"I don't care what color he is," she said of Obama.

Others in attendance weren't as confident that color does not matter to voters, although they said it didn't to them.

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