October 15th, 2008
03:59 PM ET
6 years ago

Greene: Hempstead debate preview– four pastors

ABOARD THE ELECTION EXPRESS

Inside the Spin Room at the final presidential debate.
Inside the Spin Room at the final presidential debate.

HEMPSTEAD, New York (CNN)– There are reasons, I was told, for a person to
watch a presidential debate even though he thinks the chances are zero that
his mind will be changed.

The four pastors I encountered in Hempstead preside, they said, over four
African-American churches. They introduced themselves:

The Reverend William A. Watson Jr., 61, of St. John's Baptist Church in Westbury.

The Reverend William Thomas, 66, of St. John's Baptist Church in West Hempstead.

The Reverend Cornelius Watson, 56, of Cedar of Lebanon Baptist Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Alvin Barnett, 71, of West Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

From the four pastors, Barack Obama will be receiving four votes.

Yet tonight, although their votes will not be in play, each of the four
pastors will be sitting in front of a television set.

"It's important that I watch, for when my congregation asks me questions,"
Reverend William Watson said. "I want to have informed answers."

He said he senses that something profound may be about to happen.

"These are important days in which we are living," he said.

The four men do not know Obama, and he does not know them. A younger man
than they are, he seemingly emerged from nowhere.

And– this is just behind every word they say, and every word that goes
unsaid– November 4, regardless of the outcome, looms ahead like no
Election Day
in their lifetimes, and no Election Day they ever quite believed they would
see.

Reverend Thomas said there is nothing he would rather do tonight than, on
television, watch what happens at Hofstra University.

He will be watching, he said, "to make sure Obama maintains his dignity,
his credibility, his ethics."

Does he have any doubts?

"He never ceases to amaze me."

In what way?

"In a good way," Reverend Thomas said. "I watch him and I always walk
away feeling proud. He just continues to go uphill."

He said he will spend the full 90 minutes concentrating on the debate not
out of a sense of duty, or of civic responsibility.

For him, he said, it is something more basic.

"I enjoy watching him up there," he said. "Listening to him speak. It's
an inspiration. As I say: I feel proud every time."


Filed under: Bob Greene • Election Express
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