By James Ewers
Sen. Barack Obama made reference to a preacher who made America better in his acceptance speech on Aug. 28, 2008, at the Democratic National Convention. Obama is now officially his party’s nominee to be president of the United States of America. Let’s not forget the “preacher” that Obama referred to was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., arguably the single most important figure in the civil rights movement. Certainly there could be no Barack Obama without there being a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Men like Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, Edward Brooke and, yes, Jessie Jackson all had a hand in the uplifting of Barack Obama. We can never forget Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks all contributed to where Obama is today. There are countless others who played significant roles in carving out a place for all Americans in this country.
The day of Obama’s acceptance speech marked the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream speech.” Was it fate or coincidence? You make the call. I have said to all of my friends that never in my lifetime did I ever expect to see an African-American be this close to being president. I thought about the marches that I have participated in and the movie houses where I had to sit in the balcony simply because I was Black. All of that had to happen then so that we could get to now, seeing Obama be nominated for president. So watching Sen. Obama last week reaffirmed for me that anything is possible in America. While there are some who will tell you what you can’t do, there are others who will tell you to follow your dreams.
There have been reports circulating for months that Obama is an elitist. I find that assessment to be absolutely ludicrous. What exactly in the eyes of the naysayers makes Barack Obama an elitist? Let’s examine the facts. He was raised by a single parent who was economically challenged. His mom valued education so he graduated from college using scholarships and loans. Does graduating from college using scholarships and loans make him an elitist? He graduated from Harvard Law School and chose to work for social reform in Chicago instead of getting a high paying job with a major law firm. Does advocating for people who can’t advocate for themselves make Obama an elitist? He is articulate, persuasive and has command of the facts. Does being well spoken and giving people hope make Barack Obama an elitist? Many of us have grown tired and weary of hearing the nonfactual and puny arguments about Barack Obama being an elitist. Could it be the purveyors of such vile information suffer themselves from jealousy and envy. It can hardly be said that Obama was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He may have had a spoon but it certainly wasn’t silver. Obama knows when people are out to damage you that they will create a perception about you. The way to beat it is to simply treat everyone with dignity and respect and give 110 percent everyday in whatever your life’s work is.
Many who are against Sen. Obama have used race as the reason that they will not vote for him in November. The Internet is filled with comments from people saying that they will never, ever vote for an African-American to be president of this country. It both saddens and troubles me that in 2008 that there are those who would still use race as a wedge to divide us. I actually hurt for people who think like that, because there is no racial monopoly on intelligence. Like the board game Monopoly, if I do the right things, I, too, can have the boardwalk; I, too, can pass “go” and collect $200.00.
Being an educated African-American male today creates questions for a lot of people. Because Obama is confident, some perceive him to be arrogant. Because Obama is cool under fire, some see him as aloof or “elitist.” Said King: “I want to be judged by the content of my character and not the color of my skin.” Yet there are places in this country, the home of the brave and the land of the free, that still believe in the old way of thinking. So no matter how integral you are, no matter how articulate you are, the color of your skin still gets in the way. Will we ever become our brother’s and sister’s keeper? I still believe we can and, in fact, I know we can.
So, no matter your political affiliation, what you saw on last month was history. This story will be in textbooks and archives all over the world for generations still unborn. It will tell the story of Barack Obama, a Black man who believed that he could be president of the United States of America.
Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.