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Colin Powell Cites Platon Pic in Obama Endorsement

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Did you see Colin Powell’s endorsement on Meet the Press yesterday? I’m excited about it. I think it does a few good things for Obama. Powell is the most famous Republican moderate, by far; he could have an impact with just the kind of right-leaning independents who need one final small nudge to vote Obama. And it may help secure an Obama presidency (knock wood) on the firm bipartisan ground it needs to succeed.

But more directly, it might change the tone of a campaign that is now seeing its fair share of racial and ethnic innuendo. Powell criticized McCain’s unsteadiness on economic matters and his selection of Sarah Palin, but he saved his most powerful words for the subject of American inclusiveness:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, he is a Muslim and he might be associated with the terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards—Purple Heart, Bronze Star—showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

That picture appeared in The New Yorker, and the picture was taken by Platon. Here it is:

080929_slideshowplaton16_p465.jpg Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. Photo by Platon.

Platon is a recent New Yorker hire, and he could hardly have had a more auspicious start! The whole portfolio is stunning; you can listen to the photographer discuss the series in a podcast on the magazine’s site.


Thanks for sharing these words of Powell’s. They helped redeem him for me a little, despite his role in the Iraq “weapons of mass destruction” campaign.

And that was a great photo essay; the same photo stood out for me, too. How amazing that Powell would cite it.

A little follow-up on Platon from his master class at the 2009 New Yorker Festival can be found here: http://emdashes.com/2009/10/new-yorker-festival-platon.php.

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