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Obama's First Presidential Proclamation Recognized African American History

By Krissah Thompson
Amid the wrangling over the stimulus plan and increasingly dismal economic news, President Obama issued his first official proclamation last week -- a statement recognizing National African American History Month.

While such proclamations are by now standard for presidents, this was the first instance in which a president could subtly allude to himself as a part of "the narrative of the African American pursuit of full citizenship with all of the rights and privileges afforded others in this country."

"Through the work of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall, the African American community has steadily made progress toward the dreams within its grasp and the promise of our Nation," Obama declared. "Meanwhile, the belief that those dreams might one day be realized by all of our citizens gave African American men and women the same sense of duty and love of country that led them to shed blood in every war we have ever fought, to invest hard-earned resources in their communities with the hope of self empowerment, and to pass the ideals of this great land down to their children and grandchildren.

"As we mark National African American History Month, we should take note of this special moment in our Nation's history and the actors who worked so diligently to deliver us to this place."

For the proponents of Black History Month, the president's statement was an opportunity to again cheer Obama's barrier-breaking presidency.

"This is a significant milestone in the black history movement because one of our goals was to bring about interracial harmony," said Daryl Scott, a vice president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, a Washington-based group that Carter G. Woodson founded in 1915 when he created Negro History Week.

"To have an African American president sign a proclamation is the passing of a milestone."

President George W. Bush also issued annual statements recognizing African American History Month and last year hosted a group of African American leaders and dignitaries, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.); former transportation secretary William T. Coleman Jr. and Ernest Green, the first black man to graduate from Little Rock Central High School, in the White House's East Room for a performance by the Motown group the Temptations.

President Obama has plans for a further recognition of African American History Month, a White House official said, but provided no details.

"If his social calendar is not filled with this it is totally understandable," Scott said. "His honeymoon didn't last a day."

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 9, 2009; 2:13 PM ET
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Next: Michelle Obama Visits Interior Dept.


"OK, but it doesn't make good sense to set a closing date without plans on what to do with the inmates."

I'm sure the Defense Department can come up with something in a year.

Posted by: SeanC1 | February 9, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Two hundered years ago this thursday both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born.

What a day!


Posted by: toritto | February 9, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Soooo, just where is:

Africa America?

Then, when do we have "Mighty Whitey" America History Month?

Mexican America History Month?

How about WASP America History?

Chinese America History?


Blacks, take a trip to Africa;

Realize you have an entire Continent filled with your "Minority" Selves(MUCH larger than England, Scotland, and Ireland COMBINED!);


Posted by: SAINT---The | February 9, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

rooster54 said:
"your xenophobia is showing. Same old bellicosity stupid."

Name-calling defines you, not me.


Posted by: Billw3 | February 9, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

"Many conservatives also believe Guantanamo should be closed."

OK, but it doesn't make good sense to set a closing date without plans on what to do with the inmates.


Posted by: Billw3 | February 9, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree, an olive branch was appropriate. However many would have viewed an interview on American TV first as more appropriate. GITMO added to the appearance of bias.


Posted by: Billw3 | February 9, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Billw3 said:
"In addition, Obama's first TV interview was on Arab TV, and he ordered Guantánamo Bay closed without plans for handling the inmates. His bias is showing."

Billw3, your xenophobia is showing.

Constructive dialogue good. Same old bellicosity stupid.

Posted by: rooster54 | February 9, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

"...and he ordered Guantánamo Bay closed without plans for handling the inmates"
Many conservatives also believe Guantanamo should be closed. GITMO was a place where it is pretty well known that prisoners were tortured. The problem with torture is that it creates a number of problems:
1. it's illegal.
2. We lose our moral high-ground
3. It makes it so we cannot prosecute prisoners who gave evidence under torture and many of these guys ARE really dangerous and are guilty.
4. It fans the flames of militantism
5. It produces faulty intelligence, it was torture-induced intelligence (WMD's) that helped lead us into the Iraq war.
6. It creates the problem of what do we do now with the prisoners.

Remember, Obama did not create GITMO, he is trying to put an end to a serious national problem.

Some people have issues with treating terrorism as a judicial matter but isn't that what we did with the millennium bomber?

Posted by: JRM2 | February 9, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"Obama's first TV interview was on Arab TV, and he ordered Guantánamo Bay closed without plans for handling the inmates"
He went on Arab television because Arabs watch Arab television. He made a couple of statements that were IMO very smart and effective. First, he turned the tables on Al Qeada by saying that his father was Muslim and that he had lived in the largest Muslim country as a boy and then he challenged the average Muslim to ask themselves if Al Qeada had made a better future for their children, that their leaders will be judged by what they build, not by what they destroy.

Al Qeada does not know how to respond to these statements.

Second, rather than give Israel our unconditional support, he said something to the effect of that he was certain Israel would act in a manner consistent with our allies. Unless both parties give a little, there will be no peace in the middle east.

Posted by: JRM2 | February 9, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Someone I respect and believe said we reap what we sow. It's against my religion to disagree with Him. It may not do much for our vanity, which we can do without, but our best defense is to treat other people right.

Posted by: rooster54 | February 9, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

In addition, Obama's first TV interview was on Arab TV, and he ordered Guantánamo Bay closed without plans for handling the inmates. His bias is showing.


Posted by: Billw3 | February 9, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse




EYES ONLY. TO: President Obama; MICHELLE OBAMA; VP Biden; R. Emanuel; D. Axelrod; D. Blair; J. Brennan; J. Jones; E. Holder; J. Napolitano; R. Gates; L. Panetta; H. Clinton; T. Geithner; R. Mueller; H. Reid; N. Pelosi; D. Feinstein; S. Reyes


...comprised of security/intel agents, local police nationwide, and citizen vigilantes fronted by government-funded community policing and anti-terrorism programs.




Posted by: scrivener50 | February 9, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

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