Cast of Characters
Obama bestows medal on Edward Brooke
By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama honored Edward Brooke, the first African American to be elected to the Senate by popular vote, praising him Wednesday as a political pioneer who broke racial barriers and bridged divides to move "the arc of history."
Speaking in the Capitol Rotunda at a ceremony where Brooke, 90, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the body's highest honor, Obama said that Brooke ignored the "naysayers" and rejected conventional wisdom to carve out a history-making political career.
Brooke grew up in a segregated world, but came to represent a brand of politics that crossed racial lines. A Washington, D.C. native, Brooke served in the segregated Army and became a lawyer. When the big firms ignored his applications, he set up his own practice. He then became the first African American in Massachusetts history to win statewide elective office, first as attorney general and later as a U.S. senator. He served in the Senate from 1967 to 1979.
Obama noted that when Brooke decided to run for office he bucked the odds. He was an African American, a Protestant and a Republican in as state that was mostly white, Catholic and Democratic.
But Brooke believed that voters would assess him based on his ideas and character -- faith that was ultimately rewarded, Obama noted. "Ed was unfazed," he said.
Posted at 12:09 PM ET on Oct 28, 2009
Cast of Characters
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