First Encounters: The Man Who Would Be President

In 2003, a lanky Illinois politician entered the offices of Black Enterprise. Our editors had heard of this state legislator who was trounced in a race for Congress and was running to become a U.S. Senator. Skeptical about his chances, we took him to our boardroom and grilled him about his prospects on gaining financing and votes.

Fast forward to November 2007. I, along with another Black Enterprise editor and a staff photographer, followed that same politician across the state of Iowa, watching him electrify crowds with his message of hope and change. When we met him to take his photo, he recognIzed me. Smiling that disarming smile and shaking my hand, he greeted me warmly and joked: “A long way from that boardroom isn’t it?”

Of course that man was Barack Obama. He grew into a transformational figure who brought together a diverse mix of Americans to make history. When he appeared on the stage in Grant Park as our president-elect, tears flowed and adrenaline pumped. I must admit getting a bit misty by this great moment in history. :His efforts demonstrated that color and background cannot limit vision and tenacity. He proved the doubters and naysayers wrong.

President-elect Obama’s intellect, organizational skills and leadership promise to change our world forever. He is up to the financial and political challenges that grip our country. He has gained a well-deserved reputation of beating the odds and lifting others as he achieves. We have all entered the Age of Obama. What an exciting journey it’s been.

Yes, a long way from the boardroom indeed.

Derek T. Dingle is the editor-in-chief of Black Enterprise Magazine.

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