So, Barack Obama is the 44th American President. Congratulations, America!
But is Barack Obama the first black President?
In my heart, I fully agree with Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison when she wrote in her 1998 New Yorker essay that Bill Clinton is America’s “first Black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.”
Thanks to Clinton’s grandparents, notably his grandfather, he was remembered by an African-American woman, Ernestine Campbell, as “the only white boy in that neighborhood (Toledo, Ohio) who played with black kids”. Fast forward to his presidency, he was invited to speak in The Church of God in Christ at Mason Temple Church and he had this to say in connection with the rising tide of violence against children in African-American neighborhoods:
“In this pulpit, on this day, let me ask all of you in your heart to say: We will honor the life and work of Martin Luther King… Somehow, by God’s grace, we will turn this around. We will give these children a future. We will take away their guns and give them hope. We will rebuild their families and the neighborhoods and their communities. We won’t make all the work that has gone on here benefit just a few. We will do it together, by the grace of God.”
I don’t hide the fact that I am a Clinton admirer. So, on this historic day while America is celebrating the election of Barack Obama into the Presidency, let me pay tribute to Bill Clinton through this post. In between taking care of my son, changing diapers, feeding and teaching him the 123’s, ABC’s and some nursery rhymes, I managed to finish Bill Clinton’s My Life.
He has so much respect for the grandparents and the mother who raised him up. Sans a father figure, he was made to feel he “was the most important person in the world” by these three great people. He acknowledged “Most children will make it if they just have one person who makes them feel that way. I had three.”
Definitely, he is not the best husband nor the best parent one could have. Whatever happened behind their marital doors, this was supposed to be his and Hillary’s issue to take on but the obsessed Kenneth Starr chose to put himself in history and conducted the most abusive investigation ever done on a sitting President. Dale Bumpers eloquently opened his defense on Clinton by saying that “Javert’s pursuit of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables pales by comparison”. Clinton admitted, “Like all families’ lives, ours is not perfect, but it has been wonderful. Its flaws, as all the world knows, are mostly mine, and its continuing promise is grounded in their love”. The good economy he left which Bush plundered through his pursuit of Saddam Hussein and Iraq may be relegated to second place when people will be asked about their memory of Clinton. I am sure many would utter the name “Monica Lewinsky”. There’s a tinge of sadness in this historical reality. But when the Monica Lewinsky scandal was blown out of proportion, Clinton was all the more driven to give Americans what they deserved from their President. The Chicago Tribune published a poll showing that his approval rating was a high 72%. He was asked about the possibility of resigning and he put out a brave front and answered:
“Never. I had tried to take the personal venom out of politics, but the harder I tried the harder others have pulled in the other direction. I would never walk away from the people of this country and the trust they’ve placed on me. I’m just going to keep showing up for work”.
Undeniably, he had made several blunders. In one of those blunders, he came out with the realization that “One of the most important decisions a President has to make is when to take the advice of the people who work for him and when to reject it. Nobody can be right all the time, but it’s a lot easier to live with bad decisions that you believed in when you made them than those with those your advisors say are right but your guts say are wrong”. The steadfast conviction of Clinton to pass a balanced budget (read full text of his Federal Government Shutdown address) served the Americans well despite the two government shutdowns in 1995. He held on. And Newt Gingrich appeared as he was. Petty.
Barack Obama will deliver his Inaugural Addres in January 2009. Before that happens, let me savor a part of Bill Clinton’s First Inaugural Address delivered on January 21, 1993:
“Today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter. But by the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the Spring. A Spring reborn in the world’s oldest democracy, that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America. When our founders boldly declared America’s independence to the world and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that America, to endure, would have to change… Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an American.”
Back to the present…
Congratulations America! You saved yourself from Sarah Palin:-)