WASHINGTON (AFP) — Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, who once dubbed Bill Clinton the "first black president," endorsed Senator Barack Obama on Monday and not Clinton's wife in the White House race.
The African-American author's announcement came the same day Obama was to receive a public endorsement from veteran Democrat Senator Edward Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former president John F. Kennedy -- assassinated in 1963.
Saying it was the first time she had issued a public endorsement of a presidential candidate, Morrison wrote in a letter to the Illinois senator that neither his racial background nor his rival Hillary Clinton's gender were decisive factors in her decision.
Morrison said she chose to endorse Obama because it might help attract supporters and "this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril."
"I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it," she wrote.
She said she had long admired Senator Hillary Clinton for her "knowledge" and "expert" political skills.
"However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate," she wrote.
Obama, who is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, displayed something other candidates lacked, Morrison said. "That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom.
"It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete."
Morrison wrote: "When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as 'we,' not 'they'?
Obama, 46, the son of a Kenyan father and white American mother from Kansas, is the first black candidate given a serious chance of capturing the White House.
In 1998, Morrison wrote in the New Yorker of then president Bill Clinton: "White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black president. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime."
Morrison, 76, is the author of numerous novels and essays, winning the Pulitzer prize for "Beloved" in 1988 and the Nobel prize for literature five years later for her body of work.
Obama, coming off a big win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, welcomed the endorsement.
"Toni Morrison has touched a nation with the grace and beauty of her words, and I was deeply moved and honored by the letter she wrote and the support she is giving our campaign," Obama said in a statement.
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