Without Reservations, “Yes I Can”

0 Flares Filament.io 0 Flares ×

As an historian of American educational
history I am still in amazement of the
recent political events. November 4, 2008
will go down in history as a milestone
moment in American history. For the first
time in the history of the nation a person of
color, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected
President of the United States of America.
The election of Obama was both a
moment of pride and amazement to many
people I have talked to since the election. I
have heard countless people say how proud
they are of the election results, because
America had finally progressed enough
with regard to race relations to elect an
African American President. Similarly, I
have talked to many people who are still in
disbelief that Obama, because of his race,
actually won. What strikes me the most in
these conversations are the differing ironies
that shaped the way people thought about
race and its role in this presidential election.
This is especially true considering
Obama did his best to ignore race as a factor
Most ironic to me in this presidential
campaign and election were the conversations
I had with people who wondered
(even questioned) if Obama could be elected
President. Race—far more than merit or
qualification—was a foremost consideration
in the conversations, and it proved to
me once again that there is no logic to race.
Regardless of the circumstances, conclusions
people draw because of race are without
question illogical and illogic does not
beget logic.
Take for instance the profiles of the
President-elect and the outgoing President.
Obama, an always top of his class Columbia
and Harvard-educated Senator and former
Constitutional Law Professor at the
University of Chicago, has been a success
at everything he has done in his adult life.
No one should question whether he is
qualified to be President. Yet, many in the
general electorate and some in the media
questioned whether he was qualified, and
the conversations I had with friends and
colleagues questioned whether the fact that
he was a person of color would upend his
chances at the presidency.
On the other hand, President George W.
Bush proudly self-professed to never being
a quality student in college or life before
his ascendancy to the Presidency, and as
President his excessive decisiveness without
much deliberation has forced this
nation into two unnecessary wars, economic
recession, intellectual mediocrity,
and global disrepute. Despite his inept
presidency, and the immense challenges he
leaves for President Obama and the American
public, I have yet to talk to anyone
who has questioned whether Bush was
elected because of his race. Still, it was race
that played a role in both candidates’ elections.
Because of his race, Obama could
never be so inept and still be elected
(twice), and because of his race, the public
never expected or required Bush to be as
qualified as Obama to be considered for
the highest post in the land.
Notwithstanding, race in both ideology
and practice is always evolving, and the
election of Obama is living proof that it
changes, slowly but surely, every generation.
In the words of President-elect
Obama, “If there is anyone out there who
still doubts that America is a place where
all things are possible; who still wonders if
the dream of our founders is alive in our
time; who still questions the power of our
democracy, tonight is your answer.”
Obama, to my generation and older, had
beaten the odds. He won the presidency
despite his race and the role race continues
to play in our society. When he spoke these
words in Grant Park that election evening,
I was watching it with my wife and our
three year old son, Langston.
As I glanced down at my son, tears filled
my eyes because it dawned on me that, for
him, the image of an African American
President will be normal. He and his peers
(regardless of their ethnic or racial background)
will come of age assuming that
people like Obama are suppose to be president.
Langston will be seven years of age
when Obama’s first term ends; he would be
eleven years old, if Obama is elected to a
second term. All he will know in his early
childhood is an African American President.
So when people say to him, as they
did to me as a child, that “if you work hard
and do well in school, then one day maybe
you will become the President of the United
States,” he can think of Barack Obama
and his momentous rise in 2008 and say,
without the same reservations, “Yes I Can.”

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.