Make Black History Personal: #22 Meeting Obama

The first time I ever heard about Barack Obama was when he was introduced as the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I was watching the coverage because my home state governor, Jennifer Granholm from Michigan, was scheduled to speak.

I confess, I was half-paying attention and doing other things at home while I waited for the Governor to come on. And then I heard Barack Obama start speaking. I don’t remember his exact words, but whatever Mr. Obama said literally reached out from the television, grabbed my attention and never let go.

Barack Obama speaking at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Barack Obama speaking at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

By the end of his speech I was standing up cheering –

All alone.

In my living room.

I knew from that day forward that Mr. Obama would be president. In fact, I started saying that to people, many who didn’t even know who he was yet.

When his book, Dreams from My Father came out, I bought it and set it aside to take on vacation with me to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts when I had visited a number of times before.

My copy of Obama's first book that I took with me on vacation to Oak Bluffs, MA.
My copy of Obama’s first book that I took with me on vacation to Oak Bluffs, MA.

Once we arrived on the Vineyard and checked into our old – but cute little house in the town of Oak Bluffs, we headed over to Nancy’s – our favorite fried fish and clams hangout in the harbor. As we sat outside at the picnic tables eating and people-watching, I was shocked to look over and see Mr. Obama and his family walking down the sidewalk.

And would you believe I had his book in my purse!

But the unwritten rule on the Vineyard is “no bothering” celebrities who are there on vacation. In all my times visiting there, I’d never broken the rule so it didn’t even occur to me to rush over and try to get an autograph. Instead I read Mr. Obama’s book over vacation and was glad I had taken the time to learn more about him.

Sometime that fall, I was invited to an event back home in Michigan where Mr. Obama was going to speak. Funny, I’m not typically an autograph hound (although yes, I did get Alex Haley’s). But on this day, I said to myself –

Lighten up. This is the man who will be the first Black president of the United States.

So yes, I did stick Mr. Obama’s book in my purse yet again. And when I got to meet him that day, I told him about seeing him in the Vineyard and not asking for his autograph while he was on vacation. That’s when Mr. Obama, (now POTUS* as I predicted), laughed and said –

Well, let’s fix that now.

And he did.

President Obama's autograph to me.
President Obama’s autograph to me.

*In case you didn’t know, POTUS is short for President of the United States.

What can you do to make Black history personal?

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