President Barack Obama made his first trip to Baton Rouge as president on January 14th. A day that many will never forget. Seeing any U.S. President is an experience, but seeing the first black president in Baton Rouge is one for the record books.
You see, Baton Rouge has a rich history. One that doesn’t often make it to the national conversation. We are the birth place of the bus boycotts, and the home of Southern University. Most people talk about us for LSU and the Tiger Football team, but the reality is there is more to this mid-size city.
As I said the other day, some say why McKinley? Why not? You see, I didn’t have to attend McKinley to appreciate what it represents in our community. The list of schools to choose from were Tara High School, Baton Rouge High, and McKinley High. Undoubtedly if the $54 million dollar Lee High was built I’m sure the East Baton Rouge Parish School System would have recommended that facility. The truth is, our school system has invested millions in other schools and I’m sure would have loved to have had the opportunity to show them off. However, you can invest millions in buildings, but money can’t buy history and heritage.
You see there are countless African American judges, doctors, lawyers, and business people who graduated from McKinley High. Sure, the same goes for other schools, but let’s face it, Baton Rouge is majority black. The president visit to McKinley now gives black people all over the city a reason to stick their chest out.
To have had the president stand on the grounds of a school where blacks organized to fight for the right to vote means something. To have had him speak to future generations of doctors, lawyers, elected officials, and community leaders, means something. To have had President Barack Obama in Baton Rouge, a city that is still battling to progress – a city that still needs to close the income gap between blacks and whites ($39,000 blacks, $90,000 whites) means something.
The truth of the matter is, this man has the codes to the nuclear warheads. He has access to leaders all around the world at the mentioning of a name. He is capable of bringing as much attention as he wants to any subject he desires, because he is the President of the United States of America. The Commander in Chief of the most powerful military on earth, and he just so happens to be the husband of a beautiful black Queen, which makes the deal all the more sweeter for blacks in Baton Rouge and around the country.
I looked over at my business partner Stephen when the president walked in the room and said, “He’s real”! The truth is, for someone like me, who has watched President Obama since 2004, when he gave a speech at the democratic national convention, it was a moment I never thought would frame itself the way it did, but I’m honored to have been able to attend.
In 2004, then a state senator, Barack Obama, was speaking on “The Audacity of Hope” and in that moment, I told my father he would be our first black president. My dad said, not in my lifetime. I told him, I think he will run and win in 2016. It’s 2016 and he’s been our nation’s president now for 7 years. This year has truly started off heading in the right direction for Baton Rouge, let’s hope we can build on the victories of January and have a year full of reasons to celebrate. Thanks for the visit President Obama, we won’t soon forget it.