There are reasons why Barack Obama has won such broad support from people of all different backgrounds, ages, regions, races, religions, and cultures.
One of those reasons is that he is a decent human being.
That decency was on display today as Senator Obama respectfully acknowledged the passing of the president of the Mormon church, a faith he could have easily written off as another right-wing, fundamentalist religion with no bearing on his political objectives. It was an act that most likely won't make national headlines. But it mattered to me.
As a Mormon progressive supporting Barack Obama, I hear the criticism from both sides. Some Mormons think voting for a Democrat is akin to denying the faith. Meanwhile, many liberals write off all Mormons as strange and delusional. (I won't even get into what many Evangelicals think of Mormons).
Mitt Romney, unfortunately, hasn't done much to change the stereotypes. His run for president has been disappointing not only because of his pro-war, pro-guns, double Guantanamo, favor the rich policies, but because of his consistently un-principled, say-and-do-whatever-is-necessary-to-win strategy.
There are many Mormons like myself who reject both his policies and his politics.
We have looked elsewhere for a candidate who represents our values. And we have found that candidate in Senator Barack Obama.
The most recent demonstration of Barack Obama's class, grace, and integrity came in response to the recent passing of the Mormon Church's beloved president, Gordon B. Hinckley.
Barack Obama was scheduled to campaign in Utah this Saturday. While not containing hundreds of delegates, Utah is considered a toss-up state in this tight election where every delegate counts. Nevertheless, Barack Obama canceled his stop in Utah in deference to President Hinckley's funeral.
In a statement, Senator Obama said: "Last night I spoke with President Thomas Monson and expressed my deepest sympathies to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley."
Obama could have easily just held his rally or skipped it without a word. With his busy schedule he certainly didn't have to call President Monson and offer his condolences. But he did. And to me it says a great deal about his character.
I know the general reader doesn't know much about Gordon B. Hinckley, but he was loved by many, including myself, for reaching out to people of all races, religions, and countries. As many people know, the Mormon church (like America) has an unfortunate history in regards to racism, but Hinckley helped bring us out of that dark past and into an understanding that we are all God's children and that no one should be considered a second-class citizen because of race or ethnicity. Under his leadership, the church flourished in Africa, where it has also provided consistent humanitarian aid. Hinckley also helped establish the Perpetual Education Fund, which helped people around the world living in poverty (primarily in developing nations) receive an education.
One of Hinckley's greatest legacies was his inclusiveness. Mormons have a reputation sometimes for being self-righteous and exclusive, but Hinckley taught us to not be "clannish," to reach out to people, and respect and appreciate the beauty and goodness of those from different faiths and worldviews.
President Hinckley wasn't perfect, but he was a good man and will be missed by many.
On behalf of many other Mormons throughout the world, we thank Senator Obama for his thoughtfulness and sensitivity at this difficult time. It is a gesture that won't soon be forgotten.