Tag Archives: Obama

Thanksgiving 2009

Laurie and Debbie say:

There’s no doubt that 2009 has been a difficult year, but it still has a lot to celebrate, appreciate, and be thankful for.

Last year, we said “We have a sane man coming in to the American presidency. We have a smart man coming into the American presidency. We have the first African-American to come into the American presidency. (And they’re all the same person!)” And now he’s president, and he’s been president for nine months. There’s an African-American family living in the White House. That’s huge.

The movement that elected Obama hasn’t given up. Progressive groups like Move On!, People for the American Way, and many others are applying real pressure on elected officials, often cleverly. We’re particularly impressed with the Health Care Accountability Pledge, which is collecting promises for money to defeat any Democrat who “keeps health care reform from getting an up or down vote.”

It’s pressure like that that made it possible, even with the insurance companies funding enormous opposition, to get a health care bill passed in the House … and to get cloture on debate on a health care bill (without the nasty anti-abortion provision) in the Senate. Plenty of hurdles left, but we’ve crossed two where they wanted to stop us for good.

Kimberly Clark, world’s largest producer of tissues, has bowed to environmentalists’ pressure and is using sustainable forest management techniques, leading the way for other paper companies to do the same. And on a similar note, Bertin, world’s largest leather manufacturer, is not buying cattle from farms responsible for Amazon deforestation.

The Obama administration is trying at least some Guantanamo prison “detainees” in U.S. civilian courts! After as much as eight years of being confined and tortured without representation or protections, this is a small step in a crucial direction.

After twenty years of a shameful policy preventing people with AIDS from traveling to the United States, the Obama Administration has lifted the ban. Starting very early in 2010, your HIV status will not affect your right to visit the United States. It’s not about time, it’s long past time, but it is happening.

After an extraordinary battery of gender tests, Caster Semenya will be allowed to keep her gold medal and her prize money. We blogged about this story here.

The CIA is not immune any more. A trial in Milan, Italy, resulted in the conviction of 22 alleged CIA officers and agents, an American air force colonel and two Italian agents, who were convicted of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from a Milan street in 2003.

Speaking of successful political pressure from progressives, Presente led a successful campaign to get racist, virulently anti-immigrant CNN anchor Lou Dobbs off the airwaves and . More than 100,000 people signed the petition, and Dobbs resigned “to take a more activist role” and is now talking about the Senate, and also the Presidency in 2012. Imagine the entertainment value of a Palin/Dobbs (or Dobbs/Palin) ticket!

Have a great holiday! We’ll be back early next week, when we’ll do a crosspost to the fabulous FWD.

Inauguration 2009 – Prayer Pilgrimage 1957

Laurie says:

Like everyone else I know I watched the inauguration.   This is the first inauguration I’ve made a point of seeing.  Many other things about it are important, but paramount for me was seeing an African-American inaugurated as president.

Seeing the crowds on the mall and the speakers on the platform took me back to 1957.  I was 15 and I’d gone to the Prayer Pilgrimage in DC with my friend Pat.  Riding down on the bus from New York with the local Youth Chapter of the NAACP.

After its 1957 creation, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization of African-American ministers promoting civil rights, announced plans for a prayer pilgrimage to Washington. Pilgrimage sponsors included the SCLC and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as other civil rights movement leaders. The pilgrimage’s goals included demonstrating black unity; providing an opportunity for northerners to demonstrate their support; protesting ongoing legal attacks by southern states on the NAACP, protesting violence in the South; and urging the passage of civil rights legislation. An estimated twenty-five thousand people from thirty states attended the pilgrimage, held on the third anniversary of the United States Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public education.

My friend Pat’s parents were radical socialists (1950’s code for communists except for folks who really were radical socialists),  who had the connections to get us the places on the bus.   I was excited and stayed up through the whole late-night bus ride. The crowd looked enormous when we arrived. It seemed to cover the whole mall and I felt almost overwhelmed.  Harry Belafonte was on the platform and spoke briefly.  I knew his involvement in the early civil rights movement was costing him serious career damage.  I was impressed that he was there.  Adam Clayton Powell gave a very strong speech and then Dr. King spoke. They were both powerful and eloquent speakers.  I knew Powell well, both because I was from NYC and because I worked on Saturdays at the lab at Harlem (his district) Hospital.  I knew something about Dr. King from the Montgomery bus boycott  and his passionate activism, but he was much less familiar to me than Powell.

They’d asked the crowd to wave handkerchiefs instead of clapping, and the sense of repressed energy was very high.  I remember looking around at one point and realizing that I was one of the very few white faces in the crowd.  Pat and I were the only white people on the bus down and it wasn’t that I didn’t know it, but briefly the realization was scary and then I was remarkably elevated to be there.

Leaders of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom had asked the audience to focus on the event’s religious nature by waving handkerchiefs instead of clapping during the speeches. .. New York congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. says that he cares more about civil rights than about other issues discussed in congress… The listening crowd includes many people who are sitting and standing near the memorial, including nurses in caps who line the sidelines. Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wearing his formal church robes, declares that if African Americans are given the right to vote they will be able to obtain many of the basic rights they seek. The clip ends with the crowds again cheering in response.

I felt that elevation once again watching hearing Obama take the oath and hearing his speech.   I was sitting in front of a television in 2009 in California, but I was also at the DC Mall in 1957.

Watch this clip of the speeches!

(From the UC Civil Rights Digital Library – the quotes are also from them.)