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I voted for Barack because he's black ... and that's okay - Joel Hall

Being that this is an election year and I am a political reporter, I have followed the issues of this presidential race very closely. I am very aware of the major issues and where most of the Democratic and Republican candidates stand.

In some ways, the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton boils down to an argument of judgment verses experience (i.e. Obama's consistent opposition of the Iraq War verses Clinton's former title of First Lady).

There are, however, a few major differences in their campaign platforms. The biggest difference is their approach to health care.

Clinton believes in universal health care in the purest sense. She wants to have a system in which everybody is covered and everybody buys into it.

That would work if America was Sweden or Americans were less individualistic and self-absorbed, but that is the nature of who we are.

Obama's approach seems a lot more realistic: If you make health care inexpensive enough so that most people can afford it, most people will buy it.

It makes sense because it allows the few individuals who like being uninsured to do so. At the same time, it gives the other 99 percent of the population the tools they need to be healthy at a reasonable price.

But that's not why I voted for him, when I cast my ballot, during advance voting last Monday. The driving force behind why I voted for Obama was simply because he is an African American.

I know I'll probably draw a lot of criticism from some black and white people who don't believe Obama should get a gold star for being black. Obama's blackness shines, however, above all the other reasons why I voted for him.

I'll explain why.

When I was a small boy, I remember my parents telling me that I could be anything I wanted to be if I put my mind to it.

However, as I grew older, the glass ceiling became more apparent and I realized how hard it was to be the first black person to do anything.

From grade school academic clubs, to orchestra groups, to college, and even my current job as a reporter, I've received a great deal of scrutiny for being black. Some whites will worry if I am there on my own merit and some blacks will expect more from me than someone who is white.

I don't know how stressful it is to be black and running for president, but as any black man who has ever aspired to be anything, I know how it feels to be scrutinized on both side of the racial divide.

I would argue that few candidates in history have been more scrutinized than Barack Obama. I would also argue that Obama has been challenged more than any other candidate in this race.

While the Obama camp tends to downplay the factor of race, it has undoubtedly influenced his campaign. He has had to shrug off comparisons to past black candidates like Jesse Jackson -- something no white candidate has had to do or would be expected to do.

While not advertised, he was the first candidate in this race to request Secret Service detail. That security detail was recently doubled due to threats made against his life.

Whenever a black man has come close to achieving a historic first, it has made many people uncomfortable. However, that discomfort has often served as the engine for dramatic social change.

In sports, it took black athletes like Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Julius Erving, and Tiger Woods to break traditions and prove that all Americans are worthy of being honored on the same stage. By becoming Atlanta's first black mayor, Maynard Jackson paved the way for minorities and women to share that title.

For nearly 250 years, the highest office in the land has been reserved for white males alone. If Barack becomes president, it will not only change the way Americans look at the presidency, but it will level the playing field in a way no other act in American history could.

In addition, it will inspire the next generation of people who will finally be able to tell their children in confidence that they really can do anything.

Obama has made it this far on his own merit and is well aware of the opposition against him. If he is willing to take those risks and can make those changes, then he is well deserving of my vote and yours as well.