Historically Noted: President Obama as the Answer to that American Problem of History

At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.

So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago in Appomatox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.”

This was the introductory lines of the Right to Vote speech of former US President Lyndon Johnson in Congress more than four decades ago. In the second paragraph, the three of the most important junctures in the history of the United States are listed. In Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the first military resistance of the colonists against the British happened during the American Revolution. In the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, commander in chief of Union forces. In Selma, Alabama in the 1960s, a major black voter registration drive led by Martin Luther King, Jr. was held where he also encountered violent opposition. And just this November 4, 2008, another turning point in US history happened. A large majority of Americans believed that “Change has come to America” and voted to office the first ever black President of the country, Barack Hussein Obama. Yes, it was history.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that he cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. But with the election of Obama, I am pretty sure he will be more than just satisfied now. Millions of Negroes around the world and members of other nations rejoiced with what happened in the US elections, many of them shed tears. But who could be happier than with the African-Americans in the US? The history of black Americans has been a struggle for their existence first as humans and later on as citizens of the United Sates with full civil and political rights. They started as goods brought to America to serve as slaves by the colonists at the time when the thirteen original states were still part of British colonies. They continued to fight it out until Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation emancipating them from slavery. However, the battle did not end there.

Although they were recognized as humans after the civil war, their rights as Americans were not fully recognized in many of the states. Again, the fight was not easy but they came out triumphant with perhaps two of the most important of the Affirmative Actions, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act in 1960s. The former banned discrimination in public accommodations, educational institutions and employment and the latter essentially prohibits the denial of the right to vote because of color. However, another attempt to step forward in empowering black Americans did not push through when Jesse Jackson failed to get the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and in 1988. But the wait was not long for them when two decades after, a young and charismatic junior senator from Illinois earned the democratic nomination. Because of the failures of Republicans in wars abroad and economic management, this fifth ever black senator easily defeated his counterpart John McCain, an ultraconservative Republican, in the 2008 presidential election. The dream of King, the hope of Jackson and the aspiration of millions of other Americans came into reality. Certainly, Obama’s election to office was the highlight of the long struggle for equal rights and protection of the African Americans.

For many, the victory of Obama was the victory of the African Americans only. The white Americans maybe unaware of this but his election was also their liberation from hundreds of years of hypocrisy and pretense. The founding fathers, all of them white and under oppression by British authorities, aspired, fought for and later on established a free America through the magnificent words of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution. However, in the following decades most of the whites remained untruthful and inconsistent to the founding principles and ideals of their republic. The black Americans have not gained full citizenship rights and achieved racial equality. The slavery. The lynching. The violence. The harassments. The school segregation. The bus segregation. The discrimination. The denial of rights. These are all told by history and these are all manifestations of the failure of Americans to rise up and live out to the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' Once in history, they deprived the members of the black minority of civil and political rights through institutionalized discrimination, like denial of access to public accommodations, and extralegal means like harassments and violence. Although there were recognition of shortcomings on their part and corrected these mistakes later on, color has become still an important factor for giving opportunities in the political process. Today, only five black Americans, including Obama, had served in the history of Senate. Obama was the only black in history who became a standard bearer of a major political party. Thus, the result of the latest presidential election showed that the white Americans and the rest of the members of American majority have embedded in their selves the true essence of their struggle for the dignity of man and for the destiny of democracy.

His election was the highest meaning of the of the powerful words of Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers; was the entire significance of the aim of Abraham Lincoln and the rest of the abolitionists; was the full realization of the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the rest of the civil rights movements; and was the complete truth of the hope of Jesse Jackson and the rest of African Americans. Referring to racial discrimination and inequality during his time, Pres. Johnson stated in the same the Right to Vote speech:

There is no Northern problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Negro problem. There is only an American problem.”

Yes, indeed, the triumph of Obama can be seen as the triumph of history for it is the most apparent sign of the eradication of that American problem.


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