I write to congratulate our U.S. senator, Barack Obama, and all of the west suburban volunteers who worked so hard to secure for him the Democratic Party’s nomination for the office of President of the United States of America. Local supporters campaigned for Senator Obama in at least six states, and they should be unabashedly proud of the work they did and of the risk they took in backing a candidate initially viewed as having no better than a “long shot” chance at nomination. I remain convinced that Senator Obama is our best candidate and that he will be a great president-the kind of president our country sorely needs at this moment in time.

I write also to congratulate Senator Hillary Clinton and all of the west suburban residents who supported her campaign and volunteered their time and talent. Notwithstanding her initial status as the presumptive frontrunner, Senator Clinton endured a barrage of criticism and an undercurrent of overt misogyny during the campaign. She proved herself resilient and tenacious, and she and her supporters deserve our respect and our gratitude. As unpleasant as the campaign was at times, our nominee and our party will be better prepared for victory in November because of the 54 primary elections that senators Obama and Clinton contested.

We Democrats should count ourselves blessed to have had two such extraordinary candidates battling for the nomination-and proud that it was our party that offered the first woman and the first African-American a true chance at the nomination. That both were candidates in the same primary election, and that they emerged from a deep and talented field of candidates as the standard bearers of our party’s values, only reinforces the open and inclusive coalition that is the Democratic Party.

In that vein, it is now time for our party to do what it has always done after a hard-fought primary election campaign-put aside our “family squabbles” and rally ’round our nominee. It is time for us to unite so that we may focus on what really matters-reclaiming the White House so we may reclaim our country and our place in the world.

As Senator Obama pivots toward the general election, our behavior as Democrats-strong and united-is critical. We must conduct ourselves in a way that engages independent voters and Republicans troubled by the course of current events, and proves that we don’t just talk of a “new politics”-we live it.

Don Harmon

Illinois state senator, 39th Legislative District

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