DENVER—Presidential campaigns are about the future, and last night Barack Obama, whose nomination is already a part of American history, cast his gaze unambiguously ahead.
"This moment, this election," he told 75,000 supporters in a starlit stadium here, "is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive."
Obama presented himself as uniquely suited to understand, and to solve, the country's 21st-century challenges. He spoke of the collapse of old verities, whether inside the American family or abroad. He pledged to defeat modern threats such as terrorism, poverty, genocide, and climate change. He proposed ending the country's addiction to foreign oil -- not through sky-high gas prices but with new technologies.
The contrast with Republican John McCain wasn't lost on anyone. As Obama put it, "We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past."
Still, Obama needs to show he is not just youthful and inspiring but ready to lead. In this, he was helped by a parade of supporters, including a phalanx of retired military generals who testified to his strength and superior judgment.
Today's events did at times have the feel of a rock concert, with supporters in rainbow-colored Obama T-shirts swaying to Will.i.am and text-messaging voters. But the stadium was also resplendent with red, white, and blue flags, as if Obama was aiming to reclaim the symbol of America for the Democratic Party and its values.
"The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans have built," he said, "and we are here to restore that legacy."
It is an ambitious, even audacious, aim.