On July 16, I gained a rare opportunity to participate in American history. On that humid summer day, I was one of seven black journalists selected by the White House to take part in an exclusive roundtable with President Barack Obama on Air Force One. It’s every reporter’s dream to conduct an interview with the president of the United States; it’s a career high to talk with him at 10,000 feet in the vessel considered the ultimate symbol of power and authority.
Since presidential air transport started in 1944, no other commander in chief has provided such a forum to the black press. We marveled as we toured the well-appointed aircraft, viewing, among other areas, the president’s tech-laden, airborne Oval Office. As the huge white-and-blue 747 sailed across the sky from Andrews Air Force Base to John F. Kennedy Airport, my colleagues and I each asked the president one question. The topics included healthcare reform (at press time, his biggest legislative battle), race relations, and minority business. I must admit, as a kid from Norfolk, Virginia, who always dreamed of chatting with a sitting president, this trip was the ultimate thrill.
Black Enterprise has always shared with our readers the importance of the nexus between politics and business. In our four decades as a media organization, however, we have never had this level of access to a presidential administration. I take great pride that be was chosen as the first magazine to interview the president. I’ve had the privilege of representing our organization in the front row of presidential news conferences. Our editors have covered every aspect of the administration and interviewed Cabinet-level officials including Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan; Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson; and Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes. In fact, in this issue, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk chats with me about his plans to help entrepreneurs gain entrée to global markets.
To keep our coverage current, we have dispatched our tenacious Washington correspondent, Joyce Jones, to track the activities of the administration on a daily basis, attending White House press briefings and spending hours on Capitol Hill talking to both Democrats and Republicans about policy issues. In this issue’s Enterprise section, Jones’ Washington Report offers details of how black-owned businesses seek to snare their share of contracts from the $787 billion stimulus package.