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My Date With Obama

The first time I met Barack Obama I was on a blind date. It was a June 3, 2005, fundraising event for the new senator from Illinois at the home of supporters in midtown Manhattan, and I was my date's guest. High above Central Park South, the man who riveted the nation with his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, riveted anew a packed room of young, politically minded New Yorkers. I was impressed by his confidence when speaking about his vision for the country and his cool and comfortable demeanor.

Our next encounter was in Hollywood on Aug. 9, 2007. I was a panelist in the presidential candidates' forum on gay and lesbian issues for the Logo television cable channel. (Here's part one and part two.) Obama was the first up and spoke with such ease about gay concerns. He was clear in his opposition to same-sex marriage, as he was in his support for ensuring that gay couples are conferred the same rights as straight married couples. I was impressed by his confidence when speaking about gay and lesbian issues. And I was impressed with his response to my challenge to deal with homophobia in the black community. Obama correctly pointed out that he talked about gay issues before black audiences. "I just don't talk about these issues when it's convenient," he said in that clipped and precise manner we've come to know.

And then there was yesterday. What struck me after Obama's hour-long meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters was that the only thing that had changed about him -- after a hard-fought campaign -- was his title.

As I wrote to a friend in an e-mail later in the afternoon, "the thing i found most amazing is that he hasn't so [much as] grown into the job as much as the job is the one that suits him. the supremely confident and self-assured person i first met in 200[5] and again in 2007 is the same one I just sat across from. the only difference now: he will be President of the United States." (Yeah, I'm one of those folks who types in lowercase in emails, but only if we're close. Apologies.)

Friends have wanted to know what it was like for me to sit across from, not just an incoming president, but the first black president. How did it make me feel? Was I emotional? The answer is no. My emotions made their debut on Election Night. But I will admit to quiet pride. A black man a mere six years older than me, and less than five feet away from me, was days away from becoming the leader of the free world. Obama will inherit a world of hurt from President George W. Bush. And I look forward to following, commenting on and critiquing how Obama deals with the enormous challenges he will face over the next four years.

In recent days, I've heard quite a few people say they still can't believe Obama won the election. Not in a sneering, incredulous manner. Rather, in that can-you-believe-it excitement with which folks are talking about pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III and the miracle of U.S. Airways Flight 1549. Some say Obama's ascendancy to the presidency won't be real to them until Obama puts his hand on the Bible to take the oath of office on Jan. 20. But it came home for me at the end of our Thursday meeting when, as Obama walked out of the ground-floor conference room, Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham extended his hand and said, "Thank you, Mr. President."

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 16, 2009; 5:07 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Next: Service After Service Day

Comments

Thank you. Your simple yet elegant description of your meetings with our soon-to-be-President expressed something of the power, grace, and charisma of the man in a way that moved me deeply. Yes, Mr. President, we do indeed thank you.

The "Mr. President" thing kind of sends a shiver down the spine, doesn't it?

Oh, I know not everyone agrees. I shall nonetheless savor the moment.

Posted by: EileenVerchereau | January 16, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the article. It's wonderful to hear that the Obama that i've witnessed throughout the primary and general election are his true traits. I pray that he is able to retain the best of his characteristics through his presidency.

Posted by: OK4obama | January 16, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break....this guy would get hot for any man under 90. He gets shivers also, but not in his spine!!

Posted by: 2xy4k9 | January 17, 2009 2:19 AM | Report abuse

A most eloquent article that is filled with emotional subtleties. I always enjoy your engaging comments on Morning Joe and will look forward to more personal assessments such as this.

On my way to DC today to join the celebration!

Harriet Smartt
Isle of Palms, SC

Posted by: hattlyn | January 17, 2009 7:09 AM | Report abuse

LOL. Nice puff piece.

I like Obama too, but give me a break

Posted by: bobmoses | January 17, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Get a room guys.

Posted by: mediaskeptic | January 17, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

dear jonathan: (i'm afraid i am one of those who types in all lower case...)when i think about the "miracle on the hudson," the pilot and co-pilot, the flight attendants, ferry boat operators and first responders; to soon-to-be president obama, i am struck by the thought: these are the faces of americans and this is what america is; not the america gwb et.al has shown the world with a needless war killing thousands, torture and renditions shaming us all.

Posted by: sbvpav | January 17, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Nice post, despite a major grammatical infraction: It is not "a mere five years older than me," but "a mere few years older than I." You wouldn't say "Obama is five years older than me am," would you? No, it's "Obama is five years older than I am."

Posted by: aaronhamburger | January 17, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

This is not the first time I've heard someone say that Obama is still the same person he has always been. I'm impressed by his honesty and integrity. How many presidential candidates would have told Joe The Plumber, "Yes, I AM going to raise your taxes."? Most politicians would have given some vague "non answer". I pray he continues to be straight-up with the American people. How refreshing!

Posted by: madbedi | January 17, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

It is the small-minded and those with a complex, who change when bestowed with power or good fortune. It is interesting that even those who have seen him from afar since his 2004 address knew innately that there was something special about the man. It was more than the words he spoke....there seemed to be a sincerety. I am glad he has been given a chance to show the very very good side of America after so very long.

Posted by: mendonsa | January 17, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Capehart,

Your article beautifully communicates your experiences with our president-elect;an authentic and compassionate leader. Gratefully, it seems his mere presence is already changing life in America.

While I TIVO past some of the guests on Morning Joe, your comments are always those to which I deeply listen. Your voice is welcomed and important as we launch into a new era in our magnificent country and in the world. Your perspective and analysis makes a difference and I look forward to following your work over these next years. Thank you for all that you give.

Posted by: drgloria | January 17, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

i havenot read all the above, i just wanted to say that i heard u on Morning Joe this am. RE: what the inaguration of O meant to you. ME TOO, Ifeel the same way. i want to see every moment of it, i want to be myself so i can cry and rejoice. for this is my dream come true.
i know so many, i wish my Mom and Dad, and my best friend Lawrence would be with me.
they are going to be up there with all the stars of humanity..shaking their heads,
saying "YES we Can, GO Barack Obama.!"
know you will not be alone in your office..as you watch..a new dawn.
peace...

Posted by: jelizbooki | January 18, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

by the way, Jonathan....i wrote a prayer for Obama yesterday. i guess, if you just google jelizbooki..
i wish i could send it to you..
i would like you to read it.

Posted by: jelizbooki | January 18, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Capeheart states that Barack Obama is still the same. Some say he is cool and detached, does not get angry -- a testatment to an advanced Soul.

There has always been a Plan for Humanity, as there has always been Dedicated, advanced and Awakened Souls to that Plan -- who point the way, and who live by the below creed "that we are One" -- and -- to their mission to help implement and fulfil that Plan for Humanity, which began so many years ago by our Solar Logos, and implemented by those messengers of Light: Christ, Buddha, and others (lesser and greater).....

"I am a messenger of Light. I am a pilgrim on the way of love. I do not walk alone but know myself as one with all great souls, and one with them in service. Their strength is mine. This strength I claim. My strength is theirs and this I freely give. A soul, I walk on earth. I represent the ONE." -- Discipleship in the New Age I, pg. 140

These advanced and awakened or enlightened Souls know that we are one. That we incarnate into the body, the flesh, from that one Source and that when we die or leave that body, we return to the One Source, which each thread of living, lighted, loving Soul originates from (for the blood is the life, and all blood is one colour, red). And to that they are dedicated -- to that conscious knowing and thereby living on earth.

Posted by: dsoulplane | January 19, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse


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Posted by: bhttina | January 19, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Thank you GOD....we needed this.

Posted by: lindarc | January 19, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

ok.....if one is quoting, here goes:

" Let every man remember that the destiny of mankind is incomparable and that it depends greatly on his will to collaborate. let him remember, that the law is, always has been, to struggle and that the fight has lost nothing of its violence by being transposed from material onto the spirttual plane. let him remember that his own dignity, his nobility as a human being, must emerge from his efforts to liberate himself from bondage, and to obey his deepest aspirations. and let him..never forget, the divine spark is in him, him alone.
he be free to disregard it....or come come closer to god..by showing his eagerness..to work with Him.
Human Destiny, by Lecompte du nouy
final page and paragraph

Posted by: jelizbooki | January 19, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

DO NOT LISTEN TO WHAT BARACK OBAMA SAYS, BUT CAREFULLY WATCH WHAT HE DOES !!!

Barack Obama is the greatest liar in history (no wonder he is an excellent lawyer!) During his campaign, he told lots of hope in future for America if he was elected, but now he warns Americans of oncoming darker economy and not to put too much hope in his promises. He promises a big plan to reduce budget deficit but his inauguration ceremony this January will be the most costly in history (50 millions) while the nation is in deep depression, as well as his presidential campaign (600 millions), which was far more than his opponent John McCain's. He swears to clean up Washington DC, but he failed to first clean up his homestate Illinois, one of the most corrupt state with the scandal of Governor Rod Blagojevich, who greatly helped Obama to win his state senate seat in 1996, 1998, and 2002. And his favorite slogan is "Yes, we CAN", yet he himself CANNOT quit smoking at all !!!

Posted by: TIMNGUYEN1 | January 19, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

i am sorry for you. whoever wrote the above.
why not...sit back, think about your own life.
nothing is easy, promises..take time to fulfill
to call a man a "liar"...
i am sorry for you.

i feel your anger in your words.
please try not to angry, try to understand.
promises take time. peace to you.
calm down

Posted by: jelizbooki | January 19, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

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