Obama: We must bridge racial divide

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama, who avoided calling attention to race during the presidential campaign, now sees his race as an opportunity to bridge differences, The Washington Post reported yesterday.

Obama spoke in an interview last week about how his racial identity can unify and transform the US, the newspaper said.

The son of a black Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, Obama will be inaugurated today as the 44th US president, and the first one to be an African-American.

"There is an entire generation that will grow up taking for granted that the highest office in the land is filled by an African-American," Obama said in the interview.

"I mean, that's a radical thing. It changes how black children look at themselves.

"It also changes how white children look at black children. And I wouldn't underestimate the force of that."

Beyond the historic symbolism of his inauguration, Obama hopes to use his presidency as an example of how people can bridge differences.

"What I hope to model is a way of interacting with people who aren't like you and don't agree with you - that changes the temper of politics.

"And then part of that changes how we think about moving forward on race relations. Race relations becomes a subset of a larger problem in our society, which is that we have a diverse, complicated society where people have a lot of different viewpoints." - Reuters