Finally, at last, the end 

The 2008 presidential race has gone on forever and the conclusion of this historic campaign next Tuesday promises just as much a sense of exhausted relief as it does the dawn of a new and exciting era of American history.

It just has gone on way too long. And now it is almost over, less than one paycheck away for some people. But it’s not over yet, no matter how weary we are.

That means there is still a chance for Barack Obama to lose what likely will be the greatest victory in more than 75 years for the American people and for the whole of Earth. Forget about Obama as JFK: It looks like he’s going to have to be a combination of FDR, Dr. King, Churchill, Reagan and Mandela in order to get us out of the predicament in which we find ourselves.

For God’s sake — literally and figuratively — vote early if you can. Every vote cast before next Tuesday is one less vote that can be tampered with then. It frees you up to help a relative, friend or neighbor to get to the polls.

Katie and I voted Saturday at the J. Everett Light Career Center. The process was pretty smooth, all things considered. I felt like I could trust the poll workers handing me my ballot, then sealing and certifying it. They seemed earnest and determined to do things right.

Local candidates and their advocates worked the line that wound down the sidewalk at J. Everett Light. I shook the hand of Circuit Court Judge James A. Joven, who seemed incredibly young and almost shy, but smart and impressive as hell.

I met another very impressive candidate, county coroner candidate Dr. John E. Pless. He seemed eminently qualified — the only forensic pathologist in the state, years of experience — and I was pleased to shake his hand.

But the only candidate whose on-the-spot pitch impressed me enough to actually win my vote was Libertarian state Senate candidate Steve Keltner. A longtime EMT and Butler faculty member, he made more sense with his ideas on health care reform than anyone else has lately.

Other than Mr. Keltner, I voted a straight-line Democrat ballot and I have never been as proud to vote. It gives me a feeling of pride in the American system, which hopefully has survived the onslaught of the past eight years and has enough fairness left in it to let justice be done next Tuesday.

I also went to Obama’s speech Thursday at the American Legion Mall. My sister-in-law and I took the No. 17 bus downtown at 8:15 a.m. and we ended up standing about 75 feet from the next president of the United States.

Obama seemed just as tired as we were. But it was a beautiful day, full of sunshine and light and hope. The text of his remarks will not be collected someday in a book of great speeches of history. But it was his reassuring presence, his sense of pride, patriotism and duty that carried the day.

Like I said, I’m tired. I leave it for others to discuss the reasons why Obama’s plans are better than McCain’s regarding taxes, the economy, jobs, Iraq and dozens of other issues. If you don’t know by now, you haven’t been paying too much attention.

Right now, I have a pretty good job with a large corporation. If I work hard and draw a break or two, I might be able to move up in the company, and start to make a better life for myself and my family. I don’t want any welfare or any sympathy. Just a fair chance to make a better future for myself and those I love.

I know, as surely I’ve known anything in 43 years of life, that the better world I imagine — both for myself as well as the country — will almost certainly not materialize if Barack Obama and Joe Biden end up somehow losing next week.

There are thousands of credible Web sites and hours and hours of video on the Net that will fill in the blanks to any questions you may have about Obama and Biden. This can either be the time that America comes together or splits apart for good.

Each of us knows our duty to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Your fate is in your hands. I hope each of you reaches the correct decision for yourself and your families.

God bless all of you and may God continue to save and to bless the United States of America.

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