History traditionally pays tribute to heroes of the past, but this Black History month I honor President Barack Obama, a symbol of Black History in the Making. When we think of Black history. segregation, Martin Luther King, and the civil rights movement come to mind. But in reality, today’s events are tomorrow’s history.
As I listened to Presidant Obama’s final State of the Union message in January of 2016, I was reminded of his campaign messages throughout 2008 and his inauguration speech of 2009. He was the candidate of hope, a promise of change. His recent State of the Union address put forth his vision for the future of America. Obama is a statesman, an idealist, a visionary. Somewhere between hope and vision is the reality of the presidency. That reality is one of politics, and politics is not Obama’s strong suit.
His vision for bipartisan collaboration was thwarted at every turn. As I see it, the worst thing that happened to limit Obama’s success was the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. Teddy was a consummate politician; he came from a family of politicians, he knew how to play the game and make things happen. Obama’s idealism coupled with Teddy’s political acumen were the perfect combination. But half of the equation was removed in 2009.
Nevertheless, history books will not be concerned with politics; history books will record his accomplishments, which are many:
- Ending the war in Iraq
- Ridding the world of Osama Bin Laden
- Healthcare for all Americans
- Repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
- Turning around the US auto industry
- Acknowledging the marital rights of America’s gay population
- Significantly reducing the Bush deficit
- Acclaimed as one of the most highly regarded U.S. presidents in the eyes of the international community
- The list goes on. . .
And let us not forget the First Family. The Obamas exemplify the highest standard of American family values. They defy racist stereotypes as they reflect the strength and cohesion of Black families across the nation. Michelle Obama represents the best of American womanhood: intelligence, beauty and graciousness. A double Ivy League graduate, she gave up the promise of a brilliant law career to serve as First Lady. Feisty in the early days of her husband’s campaign, she softened the sharp edges of her words and stepped gracefully into her accepted role. Within the boundaries of charm and grace, she remained her own person. Michelle defied the jealous old biddies who criticized her for displaying her beautifully toned arms and redefined appropriate first lady apparel.
Not to go unmentioned are the Obama children, Sasha and Malia. Throughout the first campaign and the 2009 inauguration, they were in the public eye. But once in the White House their parents erected a protective shield keeping them out of the spotlight.White American children have always been able to say that with the American dream, they can aspire to become President of the United States. Now, with the Obama presidency, children of color can share this aspiration. And they have the image of Black children already living in the White House.
Along with many African Americans I have repeated the mantra, Black history is American history. Well, the Obama presidency has proven this, for there are not enough registered Black folk in the U.S. to have elected him on our own. White America, Hispanic America, Asian America joined with Black America to elect this president.
In the heat of today’s politics, President Obama’s fan base and his critics will queue up along political lines. But history books aren’t concerned with the petty bickering of politics; history books focus on a person’s character and accomplishments or lack thereof. Even if the history books fail to chronicle his achievements, even if the historians choose to diminish his impact, he will go down in history with at least one entry:
Barack Obama was the first Black President of the United States of America.