In 1952, the late associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, William O. Douglas, addressed the Authors Guild on the subject of civil liberties in a time of fear — the communist threat, at the time. Reading his words today, recently reprinted in the Authors Guild’s Bulletin, one passage resonates.

“We who believe in a free society … must invent new political methods, if we are to enlist the peoples of the world in a new front. It cannot be done by military regimes. It cannot be written into blueprints that recast the world in the American image. It cannot be done by loans or grants of money. If it is to be done, it must result from the borrowing and adapting of a host of ideas. It is our attitude towards free thought and free expression that will determine our fate. There must be no limit on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must preside at our assemblies.”

I believe, as many others in the United States and abroad seem to, that Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) campaign offers “new political methods,” to appropriate Justice Douglas’s words. Sen. Obama seeks “temperate discussions,” without “limits of thought,” and with no subject “taboo.” These ideas are reflected in the attitude that urges discarding old attitudes about red and blue states, about racial divides and responsibilities and that appeals to youthful optimism. That’s the attitude that suggests meeting with enemies as well as friends in the search for peace. That is the mindframe that discusses ideas like race in America in a thoughtful, honest conversation, even in the midst of a partisan political campaign.

These are the reasons why this country, tired of the political cynicism and opportunism of the Bush years, unpredictably is about to turn to one who casts his candidacy in the belief of “a free society.” Neither a magician nor a superman, Sen. Obama does uniquely generate hope and excitement and energy toward a new direction for a new generation. He’s smart enough to realize that is all a man can do, though few before him have done it.