I promised that I would not write about Barack Obama unless he won the election. My daughter made me break my promise. She is only seven, but she is obsessed with Obama. She constantly asks about him, former presidents, and the U.S. election process.
Her obsession began last year when my wife bought her the book, Barack Obama: An American Story. When she first received the book, she could hardly pronounce his name. Now she laments the fact that she cannot vote for Obama because she is too young.
A few days ago, I brought home the September 2008 issue of Essence Magazine for my wife, but my daughter intercepted it and began tearing through the pages until she reached the Obama article. She spends countless hours pouring over the pictures and words. Obama’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, are her role models. She especially loves Sasha because they are the same age, are missing the same teeth and likes the same activities.
“Look how fancy they are,” she said marveling at the girls’ dresses. “I wonder if they are always that fancy?
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Do you think Sasha goes to school?” she asked.
“Of course they do,” I replied.
“She’s probably in second grade just like me,” she said.
“Probably,” I said.
“If Obama wins, they will live in the White House,” she said. “I wonder what’s it’s like to live in a mansion?” Her eyes glazed over in starry-eyed amazement.
She goes on and on like this all the time. She is fascinated by the fact that these girls, who look like her, could possibly live in the White House, but more importantly that their daddy could be president.
Before I go any further, I must disclose that I am not a gung-ho Obama supporter. I have some fundamental problems with his policies and his tendency to flip-flop on issues. He started out as a ray of hope, but has turned into another politician. Regardless of how I feel about him personally, I cannot deny the impact that his presidency could have on the African American community.
It has often been said that, in America, the land of opportunity, any child could grow up to be president. But children of color had a hard time believing this statement when they saw the faces of previous U.S. presidents. Now, maybe for the first time, they have reason to believe it. Obama has inspired young African Americans to succeed and to become involved in the political process. I must admit that it is good to see an African American role model who is not a rapper or an athlete.
So on Thursday night (the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream” speech), I watched Obama’s historic acceptance speech with my family. Eighty thousand people showed up to see a black man who was scoring a touchdown or dunking a basketball. They came to see a black man who could possibly be the leader of the free world. Wow!
Despite my political leaning, I was impressed and inspired by Obama’s speech. My children needed to see him deliver such a strong message. He has enhanced their pride and given them a new realm of possibilities.
He has also encouraged me by actively demonstrating black fatherhood on a national stage. Like me, Obama grew up without his father, and he made it, just like I did. Because of this experience, we have both chosen to be actively engaged in our children’s lives.
On Father’s Day, Obama told a church of God in Chicago that “we need fathers to realize that responsibility doesn’t just end at conception.” He went on, “That does not make you a father. What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. Any fool can have a child. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”
Obama has renewed my courage, and even if I chose to not vote for him in November, his candidacy has made a difference in my life. But more importantly, he has inspired hope in African American children and voters across the country. And isn’t that the mark of a true leader?