After our meal, we entered a plush conference room where we were warmly greeted by President Obama and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. During the session, he offered each journalist an opportunity to ask one question. Our subjects ranged from GOP Chairman Michael Steele’s criticisms of his policies, to healthcare reform, to the use of TARP funds to bail out small business (my question). Although the flight is bumpy at times, the president’s delivery is smooth, answering questions in the composed, thoughtful style that’s become his trademark.
But the session had another significance. Since the presidential air transport started in 1944 during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, no other commander-in-chief had provided such a forum to the black press on Air Force One. Obama’s act communicates that our publications and audiences are valued when it comes to covering the policies of the president—regardless of who occupies the White House. My colleagues and I gained a deeper connection during that trip, reveling in our exclusive experience. We weren’t being cocky; we all enjoyed that rare moment.
As I shared this experience with my mother and siblings, their pride further crystallized its significance. As a kid with dreams of covering the White House, I never realized that I would report on the first African American president, one who would be poised to reshape the country for a generation and would demonstrate that African Americans can perform at the highest level. Little did I know that I would not only help to record history but make a little of my own. On Air Force One, we all soared to unprecedented heights.
Derek T. Dingle is the editor-in-chief of Black Enterprise magazine.