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News : International Last Updated: Apr 24, 2009 - 5:31:05 PM


Obama to become America's 44th President today; First non-white among 43 men to hold the office since 1789
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Jan 20, 2009 - 5:34:35 AM

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President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, Nov. 10, 2008.

Barack Obama will become America's 44th President today and will make history as the first non-white among 43 men to hold the office since 1789.

Grover Cleveland, the twenty-second (1885-1889) and twenty-fourth (1893-1897) President of the United States, was the only president who served in non-consecutive terms. Democrat Governor Cleveland of New York had a narrow win in 1884 following a controversy, which swung some Irish votes his way after a Protestant pastor had termed the antecedents of the Democrats as having been "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion." Two decades before, the Irish were strong supporters of the racist Democratic Party; they opposed the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation because of fear of jobs competition from former slaves and during the Union Army Draft riots in the summer of 1863, had lynched blacks on the streets of New York.

Last November, in his concession speech, Senator John McCain, whose great-great grandfather William (1812-1863), had fought for the Confederacy and owned a 2,000-acre plantation with 52 salves in Mississippi, said: "This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit -- to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth."

In October 1901, one month after taking office following the assassination of William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest man ever to become president (as distinct from being elected), had invited the self-educated former slave Booker T. Washington to the White House.

News of the dinner caused a firestorm across the country.

US Senator "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman from South Carolina, fearful that blacks would now hold their heads higher, proposed a retaliatory measure: "The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place again," he said.

Today, over  a century later, the "place" of African-Americans is no longer as servants in the White House or even dinner guests.

On Nov 04, 2007, President-elect Obama began his acceptance speech in Grant Park, Chicago:"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

President John F. Kennedy meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the leaders of the March on Washington in the Oval Office August 28, 1963. With more extensive press coverage than any previous political demonstration in US history, the march and King’s speech were historic moments in the Civil Rights movement.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. I have  a dream speech- - Photo: John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library.

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