One was born with almost every advantage and was destined to succeed.
Family: A powerful well connected upper class political family.
School: Attended one of the top historically black colleges in the nation and earned his law degree from Michigan State University.
Political Life:Guaranteed. A bit of money. The right family. The right connections. A successful early entry into US political life by becoming mayor of one America’s largest cities at the age of 31.
What he did: He is the first sitting mayor in the history of Detroit to face felony charges.
What do the people say?: Easy come, easy go.
Born with EVERYTHING. HE lost EVERTHING
The other man had the wrong name, the wrong background and to many the wrong views.
Family: Raised by an educated single woman and middle class grandparents with few political connections.
Schools: Attended a two year liberal arts college before attending two of the top schools in the nation. Graduated with a law degree from Harvard.
Political Life: Toss up. Not wealthy. No family. No connections. He won his first race by signatures. His second race his major opponent dropped out.
What he did: He became the first black man to hold the presidential nomination for a major political party.
What do people say? By the sweat of your own brow, shall you eat bread…
Born with NOTHING. He earned EVERYTHING.
Why such divergent paths for these two politically talented men? One didn’t have anything to prove, the other had everything to prove. One got everything handed to him the other had to work for it all. One had a HUGE sense of entitlement. The other felt and knew he was entitled to nothing.
Yes, their stories are complex and I have indeed simplified them here but I think their stories are more reflective of our society than many of us would care to admit.
And just in case you were wondering. why I didn’t blog after Obama’s historic speech.
An explanation, I figure (it might just be me that thinks this..lol) is indeed necessary.
You see, although, I had seen this day coming for months now, when it finally happened I was and if I’m honest with myself and with you I continue to be overcome with emotion. If I sit and think about what happened that night my brain is flooded with images.
And I’m not talking solely about the image of him on that stage, or the thousands of flashing lights that greeted him as he walked onto the stage to the deafening cheers of thousands (millions if you count the ones watching on tv) in fact the most pronounced images of that night, for me, were created by strangers I had met only a few minutes before Obama’s speech.
You see, I watched Obama’s acceptance speech holding the hand of my husband, in the living room of the home a young, jewish family surrounded with strangers of every race, of every persuasion and of every age group.
Young, old. Black, White and Asian. Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We all sat together in hushed silence listening to a man we have come to admire and to trust. A man that we want to lead us and this nation to better days.
And as I looked at these people cheering and clapping loudly in support of this black man, who happens to share the same skin tone of my mother, I was instantly transported to a moment I once shared with my historian father (a man of the 60s and 70s but a realist of the 80s..lol) one afternoon while driving, we were discussing the state of black America and how far we’ve come when he said that he would know that things had really changed in the world when America elected a black man as its president.
I remained silent as I had often done when he made this observation. Unusual for me, but what is there to say when you do know that this one change would indeed speak volumes about the state of the world in which we live?
I should add that my father didn’t think that day would happen in his lifetime and he went to his grave believing that it may never come at all.
Over the years, I came to believe that in my lifetime I WOULD see a black president but I thought, to be honest, that day would come when I was in my later years.
But to watch Obama that night and to watch his supporters of every race, of every background in that living room, holding the hand of my husband was such an intensely personal moment to me..that to be honest I didn’t know if I wanted to or even more honestly if I could accurately articulate my feelings about what I witnessed that night.
To understand and to come to a realization, that you are helping to shape a future that will be infinitely better than the one your parents gave you while recognizing their sacrifice and the role that they have played, including my pessimistic father, in helping to create that moment I witnessed on August 28th..at times fills my heart with such pride, my throat with a lump and my eyes with tears because it took so long but at the same time, thoughts of that moment, of that day leaves me breathless…because I KNOW for a fact that the world has finally changed and it will never, ever be the same again and I could finally say these words to my father. “Dad, the world has finally changed.”
The next time I visit his grave I will.