For the first time in the history of the United States of America President's Day, celebrated this past Monday, February 16, 2009, was celebrated with a Black man in the White House. And, as you read this article yet another first is happening. African American Heritage Month (aka Black History Month) is also being celebrated with America's first Black president occupying the Oval Office. Although the critical situations the Bush administration left both at home and abroad still loom like the sword of Damocles, Bush himself seems like a bad memory that's fading faster than anticipated. Though White, he's been "blacked out" by Obama some say. Pictures, photos, film and other images of him have been marked out by the media. By way of contrast, the smiling face of Barack Obama is booming. It's even rivaling the ubiquitous photo of Che« himself!
In a survey released by C-Span on President's Day Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were the best presidents overall of all who graced the Oval Office say historians. Having just taken office, Obama, of course, was not included. Some Obama enthusiasts note factors associated with these three presidents intersect in an intriguing way. For instance, George Washington was the first U.S. president while Barack Obama is the first Black U.S. president. A few Obamaites get a little corny when they note that Obama is the 44th president; and when you multiply 4 times 4 you get 16, the number of Obama's favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. (While we're having fun with numbers boys and girls, we might as well through in there that President's Day fell on February 16 this year!) The complete C-Span ranking is presented herewith:
(1) Abraham Lincoln, (2) George Washington, (3) Franklin D. Roosevelt, (4) Theodore Roosevelt, (5) Harry S. Truman, (6) John F. Kennedy, (7) Thomas Jefferson, (8) Dwight D. Eisenhower, (9) Woodrow Wilson, (10) Ronald Reagan, (11) Lyndon B. Johnson, (12) James K. Polk, (13) Andrew Jackson, (14) James Monroe, (15) Bill Clinton, (16) William McKinley, (17) John Adams, (18) George H. W. Bush, (19) John Quincy Adams, (20) James Madison, (21) Grover Cleveland, (22) Gerald R. Ford, (23) Ulysses S. Grant, (24) William Howard Taft, (25) Jimmy Carter, (26) Calvin Coolidge, (27) Richard M. Nixon, (28) James A. Garfield, (29) Zachary Taylor, (30) Benjamin Harrison, (31) Martin Van Buren, (32) Chester A. Arthur, (33) Rutherford B. Hayes, (34) Herbert Hoover, (35) John Tyler, (36) George W. Bush, (37) Millard Fillmore, (38) Warren G. Harding, (39) William Henry Harrison, (40) Franklin D. Pierce, (41) Andrew Johnson, (42) James Buchanan. (Yes, Obama occupies the 44th presidential slot. This is because Grover Cleveland occupied both slots 22 and 24 when he was reelected.)
There were separate categories like "Public Persuasion," "Crisis Leadership," "Moral Authority," "Administrative Skills," etc. When it came to "Economic Management," only George Washington (1) and Abraham Lincoln (2) bested Bill Clinton (3). And only James Buchanan (42) and Herbert Hoover (41) were worse than George W. Bush (40). George W. Bush was second to last in "International Relations" with only William Henry Harrison having a worse record. In the "Pursued Equal Justice For All" category the top five in order were: (1) Abraham Lincoln, (2) Lyndon B. Johnson, (3) Harry S. Truman, (4) Bill Clinton, and (5) Jimmy Carter. Based on his popularity both at home and abroad, though it's way too early in the game to tell, were Obama to be included in the ranking he would doubtlessly come in first or second across the board! But, America's first (might this imply a second, or even a third?) African American president is not the first Black president to come after a parade of White ones. Many African countries were juggled between multiple European colonial powers before experiencing Black rule.
Though not complete, and though not the first Black presidents or prime ministers of their respective countries, the following Black African leaders remember when "presidents" of their countries were White men: (1) Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola; (2) Thomas Yayi Boni, Benin; (3) Blaise Compaore', Burkina Faso; (4) Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi; (5) Paul Biya, Cameroon; (6) Francois Bozize, Central African Republic; (7) Idriss De'by, Chad; (8) Joseph Kabila, Democratic Republic of the Congo; (9) Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Republic of the Congo; (10) Laurent Gbagbo, Co'te d'Ivoire; (11) Ismail Omar Guelleh, Djibouti; (12) Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea; (13) Isaias afeworki, Eritrea; (14) Girma Wolde-Giorgis, Ethiopia; (15) Omar Bongo, Gabon; (16) Yahya AJJ Jammeh, Gambia; (17) John Agyekum Kufuor, Ghana; (18) Lansana Conte, Guinea; (19) Joao Bernardo Vieira, Guinea-Bissau; (20) Mwai Kibaki, Kenya; (21) Pakalitha Mosisili, Lesotho; (22) Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia; (23) Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi; (24) Amadou Toumani Toure', Mali; (25) Luisa Dias Diogo, Mozambique; (26) Hifikepunye Pohamba, Namibia; (27) Tandja Mamadou, Niger; (28) Umaru Yar'Adua, Nigeria; (29) Paul Kagame, Rwanda; (30) Adboulaye Wade, Senegal; (31) Ernest Bai Koroma, Sierra Leone; (32) Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Somalia; (33) Kgalema Motlanthe, South Africa; (34) Omar Hassan al-Bahir, Sudan; (35) Mswati III, Swaziland; (36) Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Tanzania; (37) Faure Gnassingbe, Togo; (39) Yoweri Museveni, Uganda; (40) Rupiah Banda, Zambia; and (41) Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe. By several counts there are 54 countries in Africa.
And in the tradition of Golda Meir, Indura Ghandi, Benazir Bhutto, and Margaret Thacher, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia became the first Black female president to head an African country. It should also be noted that Luisa Dias Diogo, a Black African woman, is the prime minister of Mozambique. It should also be noted that for the first time in African history, as of 2008, most of Rwanda's national legislators are Black African women.
Though all the above is fine, the real question is, will a Black man (or woman), ever become president or prime minister of England, France, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia, Japan, China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or some other Western country? Now that would be something. But, given the fact that history shows that dictators come in all colors and sizes, race isn't a guarantee that people will be treated fairly. It all boils down to what Prophet Jeremiah said when he wrote: "I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course." (Jer. 10:23; New Living Translation) Well, let's just keep God in our lives and hope and pray for a better day. Do I hear an Amen?