I was doing a career day in an elementary school once and I was asked why I liked being a reporter.
I told the kids that I dug my job because more often than not I got a front row seat for history. I may not make a whole lot of money. I may not always get the respect I deserve or the praise I’d like. But I have a bunch of press credentials, programs, and other things that serve as my own personal encyclopedia.
That’s why I made sure to grab one of Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign signs during the Pennsylvania primary. They were hard to get, but I managed to grab one and save it like I saved just about everything that I got from covering the Primary. I figured that no matter who won, it would be another volume in my own personal World Book.
I was right. I now have a campaign sign from the first black man to run as a major party presidential candidate in our nation’s history.
I’m pretty sure that because it’s one of those “Where were you when…” moments that everyone reading this blog can tell me exactly where they were at 10:30 p.m. eastern time Tuesday night when Obama told a Minnesota crowd that he had the number of delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination for president.
I was in my car, parked near my house here in Philly. I had just finished listening to a Phillies game (they won) and was switching back to the local NPR affiliate when the speech came on.
I sat in the car, watched the rain fall, listened, and thought about my dad, who died of cancer 13 years ago.
Because he had been in the Army for 32 years, and Republicans are thought to be stronger on defense for some reason, my dad was a Republican. He was also the person that made me and my twin brother read the Ebony Encylopedia of Black History from cover to cover because he wanted us to know exactly who we were and where we came from.
Because he had entered the military before it was desegrated and saw how important it was for people, especially people of color, to determine their own destinies through the ballot box, Dad made sure that when the polls opened on Election Day he was in line and ready to cast his ballot. The only thing that kept him from going to the polls was cancer, and that didn’t stop him really. It just meant that one of us had to take him.
I don’t know if he would have voted for Barack Obama. He’d differ with him on a lot.
But I do know that he would have been glad to have someone who looked like him and had managed to do what he did, which was achieve his goals despite pretty much being abandonded by a parent when he was young, as one of his choices.
I was reading Will Bunch’s blog Attytood on Philly.com today and he made the point that people died so that this moment could happen.
He’s right. A lot of folks went through hell for this brick and mortar ceiling to be broken. Many of them were young, some too young to understand what was going on. Not all of them were black. But they were all committed.
And those who are still with us are probably sitting back somewhere with a cool drink enjoying this moment, but knowing that the work is only half done.
So I congratulate Sen. Obama and his family for a moment that he’ll finally get to fully enjoy now that Sen. Hillary Clinton has finally seen the handwriting on the wall.
But that’s tomorrow’s post.
p.s. I really like this picture, don’t you?