After assembling his economic team last week, on Monday, President-elect Barack Obama turned his focus to building his national security team.

After assembling his economic team last week, on Monday, President-elect Barack Obama turned his focus to building his national security team.

Obama nominated lawyer Eric Holder Jr. to be the first Black attorney general and former assistant secretary of state Susan Rice to be the first Black ambassador to the United Nations.

“Eric has the combination of toughness and independence that we need at the Justice Department,” Obama said at a press conference Monday, formally announcing his national security team picks. “The Attorney General represents the people of America, and I am confident Eric will uphold the U.S. Constitution and help us bring those who do harm to this country to justice.”

Holder is currently a partner with the law firm Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C. and served as a deputy attorney general for President Bill Clinton.

And when it comes to tackling terrorism and domestic crimes, Holder said he is ready to address it head on.

“The Department of Justice plays a unique role on this (national security) team,” he said. “This president and the team before you are prepared to meet the challenges we will face.”

Obama said Rice’s experience as a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the Clinton administration makes her a perfect choice for U.N. ambassador.

She was also a foreign policy adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign.

“Susan knows the global challenges we face,” Obama said.

Fighting poverty and diseases and ending genocide are among the things Rice said must be done to improve America and the world.

“We must invest in our common humanity if we are to improve this nation,” Rice said. “We must renew American leadership.”

Previously, Obama added four other Blacks to his administration: Valerie Jarrett, former board chair for the Chicago Transit Authority, will serve as senior White House adviser; Desiree Rogers, president of social networking at Allstate Financial, will be White House social secretary; Melody Barnes, campaign senior policy adviser, is tapped to be White House Domestic Policy Council director; and Robert Nabors, currently staff director and clerk of the House Appropriations Committee, is Obama’s pick for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th), who is seeking to replace Obama in the U.S. Senate, said both Holder and Rice were excellent choices.

“It just goes to show that if you look hard enough you can find qualified Blacks for any position,” Davis told the Defender. “We have not seen Blacks in these roles before so it is incumbent that they do well, which I know they will.”

And voters were also elated to see Obama is appointing Blacks to key cabinet posts.

“Obama is a hometown guy, and even though he does not live in the ‘hood,’ it’s nice to see he has not forgotten where he came from,” said Brian Hubbard, 41. “I know sometimes Black folks forget where they come from when they become popular but not Obama.”

Cheryl Hayes, 59, said she would have preferred if the Secretary of State nominee were also Black.

“I was glad to see that he is putting qualified Blacks at the forefront of his administration and not at the back,” she said. “But it would be better if the face of the nation, besides Obama, was Black. Still, I am pleased with the work he has done so far.”

Additionally, Obama chose Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., for Secretary of State.

“I am proud to join you on what will be a different and exciting adventure in this new century,” Clinton said at Monday’s press conference. “I will give this country my all.”

Davis said despite some Clinton critics who fear she will clash with Obama over diplomacy and the war in Iraq, he knows from personal experience the two will be able to work together and move the country forward.

“Obama is the boss, and at the end of the day when all debates have been put forward, it is Obama who will have the final say,” Davis said. “Clinton knows that and would not have accepted the job if she thought she could not work with him.”

Wendell Hutson can be reached via e-mail at

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