In his first news conference since the election, President-elect Barack Obama responded to reporters’ questions on Monday about the economy, energy, foreign policy and what kind of new puppy would accompany his two daughters to the White House.

He concluded his response to the less-serious question (except in the minds of Sasha and Malia) by saying they would likely get a mutt — and then added, “like me.” It was a casual, comfortable and humorous reference to his interracial heritage.

In many cultures, including the ones in which many of us were raised, persons were overwhelmingly defined by racial makeup. While my childhood friends would brag about being 1/16th Cherokee, a child with a black father and white mother lived in shame for something over which they had no control.

Terms like “half-breed” or worse were used to describe them. One’s ethnicity was used as a noun rather than one of many adjectives.

No one is foolish enough to think America is close to solving all its racial issues. But the presence of the Obama family — regardless of political persuasions — is more than a giant step in the right direction.

Tiger Woods beamed a bigger smile than after any of his one zillion golf titles when noting that America will now have an interracial president — like him.

And for those many other interracial persons who can’t give riveting stump speeches or hit 300-yard drives, at least they might now live with a fuller understanding of their human value as being created in the image of God.

There are no pure-breeds. To paraphrase Will D. Campbell: “We are all (mutts), but God loves us anyway.”

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