BARACK OBAMA: THE PRESIDENT WITH MANY FIRSTS
By Chukwudi Nwokoye Esq.
It is no longer news that Barack Hussein Obama Jr. became the first black president of the United States of America on the 20 th day of January 2009. It is also no longer news that he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. However, what many do not know is that Obama even before the 20 th of January, has achieved many more milestones than any president of the United States.
First of all, he is the president whom before his inauguration has written his own memoirs. In other words, as Washington Post put it “Obama is his own book of firsts”. His books: “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” were written when he became the president of Harvard Law Review and when he was a United States Senator respectively. He also became the first president to be president of the Harvard Law Review, and you can also say that he is the first president who was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He also became the first president who was a professor of constitutional law.
He was the first president whose parents earned doctorate degrees. His father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr. earned a doctorate degree in Harvard University and his mother, Stanley Ann Durham, a white Kansan woman, also earned a doctorate degree. He is the first president who could speak the Indonesian language. He lived in Indonesia in 1967-1971, with his mother and step father after his mother re-married an Indonesian. By the above, Obama was the first president with a foreign father, as his father was from Kenya. He is also a president whose both father and paternal grand-father were muslims.
He is the first president who was a ‘hapa’, a Hawaiian word for a person whose parents were of different races. Recall that his parents got married in February 1961, in violation of the anti-miscegenation law, a law prohibiting inter-racial marriage. The law was in effect in most of the southern states in the United States including Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi et cetera and even some states in the state North East like Maryland and Delaware. He was the first president that grew up in Hawaii, the 50 th American state. Obama is the first president with a Swahili first name, "Barack", meaning "blessed one" and he is the first American president with a middle eastern name "Hussein".
Obama also is the first president who has sisters from Africa and Asia. As I stated earlier, his mother re-married after Obama’s father left and his father in turn had another wife from Kenya who gave him other kids. Obama also became the first president with relatives living in Africa. Though he is the first African-American president, he is the first to marry a wife from a working-class family South Side of Chicago. His wife, former Michele Robinson was a daughter of hard-working parents who believed that hard work and perseverance pay at last.
There is the irony in the history of Obama. Though he is the first black president and broke the racial barrier, he had no slave ancestors, but had slaveholders in his ancestry. According to documents that were analyzed by an expert genealogist, William Reitwiesner, Obama’s white ancestors owned slaves in the first half of 19 th Century in Virginia and Kentucky before they moved to Kansas. Their county, Butler County, where his white grand-parents grew up, was named after the slave-holding Andrew Pickens Butler. Even the names of the slaves were given and they were: Peggy, Nancy, Little William, Isaac, Selah, Young Violet, Old Violet, Moriah, Sarah and Caty. However, his wife, Michele, had ancestors that were former slaves.
President Obama made history as the first president to be sworn in by a Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court whom he (Obama) voted against during the confirmation hearing. It could be recalled that in 2005 when he a new senator from Illinois, he with other 21 senate democrats, voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts whom President George W. Bush appointed.
Obama also made history as one of the three United States Presidents to re-take their oaths of office. Two other previous presidents that repeated the oath because of similar issues are the 21 st and 30 th US Presidents, Chester A. Arthur and Calvin Coolidge.
The Chief Justice Roberts bungled the swearing-in of Obama and there was a serious buzz by the wacky conservative talking heads about the validity of the oath and the legality of Obama’s presidency. Chief Justice Roberts, a fellow Harvard alumnus, stated for Obama to repeat after him the oath of office. The constitution already outlined the wordings for the oath of office. According to Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8 of the constitution:
“Before he enters on the execution of his office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:
“I …do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States”
But Roberts rearranged the order of the words, by omitting "faithfully" until after "president of the United States." That appeared to throw Obama off. He stopped abruptly at the word "execute." Recognizing something was off, Roberts then repeated the phrase, putting "faithfully" in the right place but without repeating "execute." But Obama then repeated Roberts' original, incorrect version: "... the office of president of the United States faithfully."
The Chief Justice later apologized to Obama, and the oath had to be retaken later in the White House Map Room in what White House counsel, Greg Craig, said was “out of abundance of caution”. There were lots of questions about whether the oath of office he took at inauguration was valid as Obama, thanks to Chief Justice Roberts, did not state the wording of the constitution “as is”. There were also arguments as to whether the acts he performed such as swearing in some of his executives including his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and executive orders he signed immediately after his swearing in; were valid.
However, the same constitution provided that he became president at noon on 20 th of January. Obama was sworn in by 12:05pm, five minutes after the constitution recognized him as president of the United States! In other words, he became president at noon on that day, whether or not the oath was taken. That means that the oath-taking was a mere “surplusage” or ceremonial, but since the words “shall take the...oath or affirmation” was used in the constitution, it became necessary and in fact, imperative to follow the constitution to the latter to avoid any second-guessing of his authority as president and to satisfy the world of blogosphere and youtube.
Congratulations President Barack Obama.
Chukwudi Nwokoye writes from maryland, USA firstname.lastname@example.org