January 27th, 2009
01:35 PM ET

Audacity of hoping

Allison Samuels

As soon as my jam-packed plane hit the ground in Washington, I instantly felt a kind of shift in the air. D.C. has long been called the "chocolate city" for its large number of African-American residents. But on this particular weekend—the historic one before the swearing-in of the first African-American president—the city was transformed into a sort of chocolate Disney World. The streets were filled with thousands of smiling, almost giddy, brown faces. Young and old wandered joyfully and endlessly in the freezing cold, searching for any souvenir with Barack Obama's face on it. "This is what hope looks like," I remarked to one of my friends as we walked by a man selling T shirts with a picture of the White House and the slogan THE BLACK HOUSE.

Ever since Barack Obama and his family hit the national scene two years ago, African-Americans have balanced our greatest hopes against our fears of disappointment. Would he run? Would he win the nomination? Would he, could he, win the presidency? On the broadest level, Obama has fulfilled our dreams just by taking office. African-American boys I know in South-Central Los Angeles who wore cornrows and once dreamed of nothing more than living to the age of 18 without being shot down are now entering barbershops to ask for the no-nonsense Obama haircut. Teenage girls I mentor who once yearned only for a date with someone who lived "the thug life," are now giving the nerd in the front of the class a second look.


Filed under: Allison Samuels • Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. robyncaffrey keyser west virginia

    way to go"""" yes we can

    January 27, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  2. EJ (USA)

    African-American boys I know in South-Central Los Angeles who wore cornrows and once dreamed of nothing more than living to the age of 18 without being shot down are now entering barbershops to ask for the no-nonsense Obama haircut. Teenage girls I mentor who once yearned only for a date with someone who lived “the thug life,” are now giving the nerd in the front of the class a second look.

    That's beautiful.

    January 27, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  3. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Perhaps the best message Obama can give to the AA community is "Ask not what your government can do for you, but what you can do for yourself". There was a recent report that black performance on standardized tests, which had historically lagged that of whites, suddenly improved after the election so that there was no statistical difference. What does that tell us? That the potential for equal performance has been there all along, but that potential wasn't being achieved. So why do colleges set lower SAT scores for admission of blacks than whites? Why compensate for a lack of initiative? AA's can achieve the same standards, they just don't. Afirmative Action shouldn't be a cure for lack of initiative and hard work. The examples in this article underscore that fact. If too many blacks get caught by the 3 strikes laws; stop committing crimes at a higher rate than whites! If there are too many cases of black women getting AIDS; stop having unprotected sex! These are personal choices, which carry personal consequences. More money isn't needed for schools. We already spend more per student than almost every other nation. All the money in the world won't help if you don't STAY in school. A 50% dropout rate is another personal choice. Bill Cosby has been preaching personal responsibility for years. Obama proves it works. Is anyone paying attention? Obama is uniquely positioned to send the message to straighten up and fly right. The Jesse Jackson's and Al Sharpton's of the world will only continue to complain how unfair life is, and who to blame for inequality. This is 2009, not 1963. The only person to blame is yourself.

    January 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  4. ShaASU

    President Barack Obama is our 44th president and the first African American president to enter into the White House. President Obama will contribute and do a wonderful job. It is so many people are waiting to see him fail. He have a hefty job before him. He has so much he have to clean up in order to get his plan on the road. President is a smart and intelligent man. Just give him a chance.


    January 27, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  5. trograncic ivan (frb)

    Competition or Capability : Sport isnt life, but a sympatic part of life. Win a competition and You are champion...but after that, the reality of the life continues. If Obama find himself as indivisible part of American nation and resolve life problems succesfully as American...that would be normal. But never let "religions" enter into politics: never talk to people as...You Muslims, but You Iranians, Iraquis, Afganistanis.etc. From the political side...some religions are "primitive source" and dont have respect for individual freedoms, equality man-wom, free marriage...and therefore these religions are "antidemocratic...and are ennemy of USA etc". For exemple: slavery is primitive...Muslims do not consider others as equal, but like slaves and "nonbelievers". Thats religious rasism! No alternative: change!

    January 27, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  6. Mike in NYC

    It's good that the overall emphasis of those quoted in the article was on personal responsibility. Better than the usual blame-fests.

    January 27, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  7. Em

    Wonderfully written, thanks for the insight!

    January 27, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  8. cougar_gal06

    It's nice to see that Obama is trying to taking some steps to fix our domestic and internation problems. I hope that Congress with help shape a stimulus package that will actually benefit Americans in the long run and not just tie us over for a week or so. The war on terror will shift to the countries that are actually harboring terrorist instead of staying in a country that is now self-sufficient. Americans will get adequate health care and education, while we try to help change the image of our country for the rest of the world. One way of doing this is to help eliminate global poverty, domestic and foreign. The Borgen Project (www.borgenproject.org) has some interesting facts about global poverty and how reducing it will help our society. It would cost $19 billion to eliminate global poverty, which is extremely small compared ot the $522 billion the U.S. government spent on our defense budget last year. By eliminating global poverty we are setting ourselves up to have stronger allies or new ones, we open up the doors to new resources and help make our society safer to live in.

    January 27, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  9. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    The destiny of a President lies in his "character." As time plays out, Americans we be able to see where the President's destiny will take him. Sometimes it is not always the destination, but rather more the "journey."

    January 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  10. Isabel, RJ, Brazil

    The American people is remarkable and admirable.
    Obama is synonymous of a America more rational, which shows its faults and strives to correct them. Obama managed to make the country more united, without so much discrimination, with more equality of opportunity.

    The whole world vibrated with Obama, not because he is a black, but because he is a politician young, talented, with a perception of policy and different world.
    The world really needs the United States, but not because of the arrogance of imperialism, unilateralism and preventive actions, but because the American military might can be used to promote peace instead of war, because the dialogue and diplomacy can replace the arrogance in foreign policy, because most political cooperation and economic cooperation are necessary to ensure that there is so much misery in the world.

    I think the world is really exhausted of so much war, both revanchism, so much disunity, despite globalization.
    Obama is writing many positive pages in the history of mankind.
    And we, everyone on the globe, trust him!

    January 27, 2009 at 2:49 pm |