Thoughts Upon Watching Obama Announce For President
The Saturday morning that Barack Obama announced his intentions to run for President of the United States I sat down to watch the speech in my living room and forced my teenage daughter to watch it with me. I forced her because as a teenager a political speech was probably the last thing she would have wanted to do except perhaps wash the dishes. But I made her watch not because I was committed to Obama’s candidacy and wanted her to be as well, because I am not – but because I felt there was going to be history made that day in Illinois. That this was going to be one of those moments in life when people in my peer group and younger than me would say, “where were you when he announced, did you see it, and what did you think?” And I did not want her to miss one of those moments, so I forced her to watch and listen.
Why was this moment so important to me and so many others? Because in 1984 and 1988 a man stepped up to run for President that changed my life and changed the life of almost every person I know and made a career path possible for me and so many others. That man was the Rev. Jesse Jackson and what he did was open the door of opportunity to the many who came before me and like me, wanted to make a life of public service, of civic engagement and electoral politics. Let me explain further – although there were many Black politicians before and after Rev. Jackson’s runs for president, there were very few full time Black political operatives. Rev. Jackson by empowering the likes of Ron Brown, Minyon Moore, Donna Brazille, Bill Lynch and many others across this country made a career path possible for young Black talented folks to choose politics as not only their passion but their career path.
To me that’s why the speech and the announcement was so important. I sat there and listened and looked at my child and wondered what Obama’s presence in this race would mean for her generation, what door would it open and how might it change her life as Rev. Jackson did mine. I wondered how this speech on that stage would open doors that now seem closed and unknown to both her and I and how that mind change the possible trajectory of her life. I wondered.
In the end she ended up truly enjoying the speech and was glad that I had forced her to watch the speech and it gave us something to talk about sincerely for a few days. And it allowed me to share with her in a real way some of the many experiences and important lessons that I had learned in my life. I was glad we experienced that together and although I am pretty sure that Obama will not be the candidate for the Democrats in 2008 because experience trumps potential every time – I am not sure it matters. The moment mattered and in that moment I saw her future and perhaps the future of us all.
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