History unfolds: A new day breaks from the past
Today I watched an event that no one of my generation would have ever suspected in our lifetime. In rural Louisiana in the 1940s, white kids rode a bus to school, black children mostly walked, often several miles, to get to school.
White schools had steam heaters; blacks were forced to heat by wood burning, potbelly stoves. When allowed to ride public busing they occupied only the last three rows in the back of the bus.
People under 50 years of age would have viewed today’s spectacular event from different eyes and ears than those who lived before the ratification of the Civil Rights Act.
I watched Barack Hussein Obama take the oath of office and deliver a moving acceptance speech as president of the United States of America. The son of a mother from Kansas, a white woman, and a black father from Kenya, the 44th president had defied all odds.
In a hard-fought primary campaign against Sen. Hillary Clinton and a general election contest with Sen. John McCain, Obama demonstrated qualities reminiscent of the man whose work made his own triumph possible. Like Martin Luther King, Obama has risen to the heights through inspirational rhetoric, great intellect and a demeanor that conveys both calm and caring faith in the potential of the United States to fulfill the promise of equal rights for all as enshrined in the Constitution. The times have changed, through Obama; America has embraced the dreams and hopes of another extraordinary man’s vision for our country.
Today I feel like we are more American than ever before. I believe Barack was destined. Though his path was made easier by the failed leadership of his predecessor he had many obstacles to overcome and none could be bigger than being a black man in a white America. The ceremony, witnessed by millions who attended his inauguration in person and the billions who watched it around the world, is testimony that there is something special about this man. There is optimism not only in America but worldwide, that the new president is the right person to lead the free world right now.
“There is no doubt that our road will be long, that our climb will be steep, we will overcome what ails us now,” said President Obama.
The United States faces a faltering economy and two wars, yet the people, in overwhelming numbers with such excitement, believe this unlikely person a few years ago, would lead our country back to prosperity.
Barack is not a black in the true sense of my youth. Today, he is called black but is a mixed race, not uncommon when I was a boy.
We referred to mixed race people as either high yellow or mulatto. I don’t recall as a youngster that I ever saw a mixed race person with a white mother. Those I’ve known had black mothers and white fathers. That has been a drastic change in my lifetime, now most mixed children have white moms. In that light, Obama is the first mixed president from what has become the new trend.
I won’t be here with you to witness it but my guess is that 50 years from now the color of one’s skin will have no baring or significance.
In rural Louisiana in the 1940s, anyone with a trace of African heritage was considered to be black even if they had blue eyes. Today’s event is truly historical. Obama will always be the first black president, like George Washington will always be the first president.
Today I saw grown people shed tears of joy, white and black alike. I don’t believe the color of our skin had anything to do with the jubilance and the fresh air that seemed to sweep the nation on this Jan. 20, 2009, in the year of our Lord. May God bless America as we all move on down life’s highway.