|“Like Barack says, it’s time
for you to man up.”
President Barack Obama inspires hope in citizens with his eloquent rhetoric and he generates confidence with his stalwart demeanor. But he has made it clear in his speeches that he demands more from Americans.
Obama knows that the change he proposes is so profound that there will be substantial opposition. There was no Republican support in the House of Representatives for his stimulus package, and only three votes in the Senate.
In his victory speech on election night, Obama called for the continued support of his voters. He asked Americans “… to join in the work of remaking this nation.” This was not simply a rhetorical device. Obama knows that he will need the continued support of the people in order to achieve change.
In his inaugural address on Jan. 20, Obama said, “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and the worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.” Obama recognized that a new national maturity would have to emerge in order for his campaign for change to succeed.
Obama called upon Americans “… to set aside childish things,” a biblical reference to 1 Corinthians 13:11 — “When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” This was not a new theme for Obama.
In a Father’s Day address in Chicago on June 15, 2008, Obama chided black fathers who abandon their families. Obama stated that too many fathers are “… missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men.”
Sociologists have long decried the extended period of adolescence among Americans. A longer life expectancy and greater affluence have contributed to this delayed maturity. For African Americans, life was once short and difficult. A black born in 1900 could expect to live only 33 years, just long enough to reach the Great Depression.
There is nothing like the expectation of an early death to concentrate the mind. Obama must now compete with greater longevity for the attention of Americans. He is calling upon all Americans to commit their time and attention as mature adults to the issues of public service.
Very few African Americans are aware that blacks once ruled “the sport of kings.” Plantation owners once had their slaves tend to their race horses. It was natural, therefore, that the outstanding jockeys would be black. Crystal Hubbard tells the story of one of these forgotten athletes in her book, “The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby.”
In the first Kentucky Derby race on May 17, 1875, 14 of the 15 jockeys were black. Blacks won 15 of the 28 Derbys between 1875 and 1902. In her book, which is aimed at children but appropriate for all, Hubbard tells the story of Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield, who was probably the greatest black jockey of them all.
Regulations passed by the Jockey Club made it almost impossible for blacks to get mounts after 1902, so Wink and other riders were forced to travel to Europe to find work.
During Black History Month, stories of black pioneers and black firsts tend to dominate discussion. Hubbard’s book, published by Lee & Low Books Inc., has an unusual twist: Winkfield was actually the last black to win the Derby, a feat he accomplished in 1901.
Parents will find Hubbard’s book as exciting as their youngsters.