“I do solemnly swear to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States. And will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend, the Constitution of the United States.” As a very young man growing up in Pittsburgh, I
At the time, John F. Kennedy was the president, and there was hope that opportunity to become whatever a young boy dreamed was not going to be denied. I had the audacity to believe that within my lifetime, it might come in handy to know those words. Barack Hussein Obama, “Barry” to his high school friends in Hawaii, probably didn’t memorize that oath.
The path to the White House certainly was not mapped out for any African American, and Obama’s path just to high school had already had more twists and turns than most. But today, Obama is standing on the brink of achieving what few would dream, and even fewer expected, becoming the first Black man to become President of the United States.
Last week, when Obama finally achieved the requisite number of delegate votes to sew up the nomination, citizens of this country were treated to one of those signature events for a country, a turning point, a milestone. As everyone can remember where they were when Kennedy and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were shot, and where they were when man landed on the moon, and where they were on September 11, 2001, now they can mark June 3, 2008.
That was the day Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. In my lifetime. While it is a great achievement, becoming the nominee, it is not the final goal. To use a pro football analogy, two teams make it to the Super Bowl every year, and while that is a great achievement, the team that doesn’t hoist the Pete Rozelle trophy at the end of the contest is considered a loser.
Obama will face a spirited opposition from presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. He’ll be bombarded with attacks from a Republican Party that has perfected the art of slicing and dicing by any means necessary. He’ll find that every one of his friends, enemies, casual acquaintances, his gardener, his barber, anyone who lived on his block, or who wears an Obama button, will be researched and “YouTubed” for every possible wart or untoward utterance.
He’ll find his patriotism, his intelligence, his honesty, his youth, his Blackness, his whiteness and even his maleness called into question (and that is just by the Democrats). He’s already been told, point blank, that some Americans won’t vote for him because he is Black (and, to our shame, some of those Americans are Black, just as some women wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a female). But he has already come so far, and, thankfully, we’ve been able to make the trip with him.
His victory does not solely belong to him. It also belongs to those thousands of young people, Black and white, who decided that their time is now, and that they should get involved in his campaign because they recognized that they are the change we’ve been waiting for. His victory belongs to those elderly Blacks who suffered through years of Jim Crow and so many daunting obstacles to their right to vote.
His victory belongs to Shirley Chisholm, who ran for president in 1972, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose presidential runs in the 1980s fueled voter registration drives that, while they could not elect Jackson, elected hundreds of Black officeholders who paved the way for Obama. The victory also belongs to my sons and daughter.
My daughter had the opportunity to meet Obama last summer, and she is boasting to all her friends that she shook the hand of the next President of the United States. My sons share in that pride and one of them is even considering a career in politics. Barack Obama has shown them that it is more than a dream, more than hope.
In November, it will be a reality. My children, and other Black children, can now memorize that oath. In my lifetime, the oath of office for President of the United States will be more than just something to memorize. In my lifetime, I can get to hear a Black man recite it, not just as an exercise, but for real. I do solemnly swear!
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