Michele obama is ordinarily resplendent under klieg lights. She was more so before the teleprompter that night in August, as she made ‘the speech of her life time’ at the 2008 democratic National convention (DNC). For a nation so enamored with vibes and kinetics, it was remarkable that the night was neither defined by Mrs. Obama’s beauty nor the green frock that clung to her like a second skin. What had resonated was the beauty of the story she told on the podium that night, and the piety with which she told it before a party still healing from the gash of a bitter campaign. Mrs. Obama left the stage very much reinforcing the hope for a real possibility of a black first lady in the white house.
It is not surprising that the trajectory of the story that took off from the ‘south side of Chicago’ lacked the trappings of similar tales of past would-be first ladies of say, Eleanor Roosevelt, jac queline Kennedy or lady Byrd Johnson, yet it turned out that her story is equally an authentic American story, spin on solid motif with stuffs that could have been made in Hollywood. Now, think of it; a father that worked harder as he got sicker , a mother that gave all her life to her two children, and a husband, raised by ‘working class folks’, all have the familiar trappings of middle class America. But the obama’s story would have ended just as any other story, if it had stopped at that, without the audacity of barrack obama and his insistence on changing “the world as it is” to ‘the world as it should be” and that perhaps is the hubris of the story that produced Hurricane obama which now seems to head for a landfall at the white house. From there, the obama story moved from familiar to uncommon.
By right, tales on the trails of the ultimate power in America should be uncommon tales. More often than not, events of the lives of men on presidential trails there, always loom larger than life, they assume superlative dimensions. They tell how ordinary men leapt over great odds to achieve extraordinary things how hitherto seemingly average men like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt trammeled poverty or debilitating illness to occupy the most powerful seat in history.
But what lay beneath Michelle obama’s story that summer night was more significant than what was revealed. For good reasons, not once did Mrs. Obama mention race or color in her entire 20 minutes speech, yet everyone in the audience and around the globe perfectly understood that the unmentioned words had in fact played, and might still play major roles in deciding her husband’s chances as the first serious Black contender for the white house. Mrs. Obama surely knows more than everyone that the color of one’s skin could hurl some obstacles that are far more debilitating than the poor pedigree of Abraham Lincoln and the ambulatory circumstances of Franklin Roosevelt, especially if the ultimate price is the seat in the oval office.
How would Mary Lincoln whose husband freed the slaves in 1865 have perceived Michelle obama on stage that August night? What thoughts would have run through the mind of Eleanor Roosevelt had she resurrected to see a black woman on the dais and two jet-black children canvassing for a black candidate at the convention of FDR’s party? Perhaps Mary Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt could have shrugged at how very much the world had changed and gone peacefully back to their graves, but I doubt if Mrs. Corley Wallace, wife of Governor George Wallace, the infamous devotee author of segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever, would not have taken things lying low. Was it not George Wallace who attempted to stand in the way of what Rosa parks tired feet had started in Alabama in 1955? Did he not vehemently oppose desegregation ago? Even Jackie Kennedy whose husband had taken on Wallace and initiated the civil Right bill would have ruminated on how far things have changed had she been present at the democratic last August, as Michelle put those pretty kids on display. Watch out for part two of this story.