Believe it or not, I heard mild rumblings from some people who were disappointed that Barack Obama dashed their dream (or confirmed their realization that the clock had run out) of becoming “the first” Black POTUS.
For me I was absolutely certain about the first; not me, but in my lifetime. In fact, my answer to the question would it happen has always been “Why not?” Same for women and anyone who has the ambition, dedication, intelligence, maturity, and guts to do it.
How does “the first” fit into the big picture? In the case of President, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on legacy. You’ve scored a big one just by being first. Check. Next. But it’s not enough. Two hundred thirty three years to the date reflects on the legacy of a nation and its social, economic and political environment as a whole. A legacy that doesn’t reflect well on equality. Perhaps some reflection on “firsts” is in order. This is part of the evolving narrative.
Being first is a blessing in a race of speed and endurance – including being first in line for Prince tickets. But not always a blessing in matters of race. There’s still that hint of suspicion in the air that’s part of the burden of being the first: Do you really deserve to be here outside affirmative action? Are you the product of white guilt? Is this just a test drive and if you don’t pass the test, how many decades before people will take a chance on another one?
This and resistance from the legacy of the past sets some firsts on the path of doing everything possible to make sure they’re not the last.
There are also the conspiracies: When something’s about to go down the tubes (including the country), they send in the first. Would this apply to Franklin D. Roosevelt – was he the first disabled President? Or did others keep their physical challenges in the closet. Which brings me to Iceland– now in the winter of winters of financial discontent and crisis–has installed its first openly gay Prime Minister (interim) until elections in May.
In times of crisis maybe “the first” is a symbol that people want, are ready for, and are taking steps towards real change. That’s worth celebrating.
President Barack H. Obama, first African American President of the United States
Michelle Obama, First African American First Lady of the United States
Eric Holder, First African American U.S. Attorney General of the United States
Michael Steele, former Attorney General for the State of Maryland and First African American Chair of the Republican National Committee
Desiree Rogers, First African American Social Secretary to the White House.