Barack H. Obama was the first African-American president of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton was the first major female party nominee for president.
Their achievements are unalterable truths in the short history of the United States, and their successes represent the empowerment of two marginalized groups that have been oppressed for much of the nation's history. In times of heightened tension, it is crucial to highlight unprecedented accomplishments so that we continue the momentum of progress.
Matthew A. Kazlauskas, an Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher at the John D. O'Bryant High School, comments, “The history of African-Americans and of women in the U.S. are incredibly important. Both have played vital roles in shaping this country. They didn't always make up the major narrative. They obviously weren't always in government which tended to dominate traditional narratives.”
The oppression of African-Americans and women as a whole in our nation's history is not debatable, and it continues to this day. African-American men are disproportionately incarcerated, and women of all nations continue to struggle with equal pay for equal work.
The worldwide Women's March on Washington in January occurred in response to Donald Trump’s presidency after a series of hateful, sexist rhetoric during his campaign. In recent years, numerous protests have transpired after an alarming amount of video evidence showing what appears to be excessive force by police officers against unarmed minorities. These social responses are evidence of ongoing struggles among marginalized groups.
Agnes Ugoji, a junior at the O’Bryant who attended the Women's March in Boston, said, “Women need to continuously prove themselves in male-dominated jobs. They have to prove they are worthy of their positions and people undermine their education because they are women. Gender shouldn't be a barrier in professional work.”
The unfair disadvantages of women and African-Americans in our modern society is what makes the achievements of Obama and Clinton stand out further. They defied stereotypes and misconceptions that society holds.
Dahlia Elamin, also a junior at the O’Bryant, says, “Hillary Clinton’s run for presidency set an influence -- not just for women, but for everyone -- that women are capable.” Clinton set new, higher standards for women and became a positive model to young girls all over the world.
Elamin elaborated, “Another African-American president also seems possible because of Obama’s positive public image. Other people could do what they might have once thought was impossible because of the stereotypes and misconceptions Obama challenged as an African -American president.”
Obama and Clinton broke barriers and carved paths for others to follow. Their stories bring hope for improvement into reality. As a generation raised under Obama’s game-changing presidency that is now witnessing a dramatically different political atmosphere, it is our responsibility to continue the legacy of Obama, Clinton and all those who will follow in their pursuit of change and progress.