January 24th, 2009
12:30 PM ET
8 years ago

Will Obama have to be better because he's black?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/24/obama.pressure/art.obama.jpg caption="President Obama strides into history as the nation's first black president."](CNN) - Just days before he was sworn in, President Obama was giving his daughters a tour of the Lincoln Memorial when one of them pointed to a copy of Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address carved into the wall.

Obama's 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, told her father that Lincoln's speech was really long. Would he have to give a speech as long? Obama's answer was completed by his older daughter, 10-year-old Malia.

"I said, 'Actually, that one is pretty short. Mine may even be a little longer,' " Obama told CNN recently. "At which point, Malia turns to me and says, 'First African-American president, better be good.' "

The story is light-hearted, but it touches on a delicate question: Will people hold Obama to a different standard because he is the first African-American president?

Full story


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. Jose

    Why do you in the media constantly bring up race? Who cares what race the Pres is. As a matter of fact his mother is white, so why and he was rasided by her and white grandparents. Or should i call them European Americans?
    Just start called him an American President not a black president.

    January 24, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. geraldine

    To the contrary – because he's black he's untouchable. Good, bad or indifferent, nothing but endless praise will be allowed. Anything but will be decried as racism, so most critics will continue to remain mum.

    January 24, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. no to corporate politics

    As the media repeated (google major media sources) after the inauguration, he will actually have longer to get things done and be given more slack than average.

    As gallup polls reported during the campaign, more people voted FOR him based on skin color alone than against him based on skin color alone.

    These are both forms of racism, but the facts (news media and polling) seem to indicate the opposite of the headline here. He will held to a different standard but it will be an EASIER one not a harder one.

    This is tough to deal with because most the current myth is that racism is the single overriding evil. In fact it is one of many evils we need to come to grips with. But we are a go-to-the-movies-and-see-one-villian society.

    There is racism alive and well, sadly, in the world but let's not make it a cartoon world.

    January 24, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. ts

    Someone told me that Lincoln was the first black president.

    January 24, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. Pogmo

    To answer the question – of course.
    When has a black person in the US ever broken through racial barriers whe he was just average or maybe even above average? Never. Every black person who broke through, whether intellectually or physically, had to be the very best of all candidates just to get through the blind ignorance of racisim.
    And yes, Obama is of that caliber. I thank him for choosing to serve our country. We all know there are sick wackos out there who want to tear him down, or worse, just because the color of his skin.
    BTW – I am a white guy the same age as Barrack.
    gObama!

    January 24, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Tina ,NC

    In one word : YES

    January 24, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. Independant Vet

    Just Stop Flip Flopping.

    January 24, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. Lori

    O.k., first of all–Obama is half black, half white.

    Secondly, people with a chip on their shoulder can continue to see everything through the prizm of race. What everyone else really cares about is this: can he get it done?

    No whining, no excuses. Just do it.

    January 24, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Maria

    He's not black, he's half white and half black. So we're only half-way there in seeing a true African American president!

    January 24, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Vince Lima

    Obama is not Black, he is bi- racial ,when is everyone gonna get it?
    His mother is white, his father is black, that makes him bi-racial!! Why does everyone believe this lie that he is black?? C'mon America let's accept the truth!! Obama is not the first black president, he is the first bi -racial president!!! Unfortunately, for some, there is no master race that automatically takes over if races are mixed!! If a man were elected president, born in Italy, and his mother was French, his Father Italian, could you just call him Italian, and ignore his French heritage? Thats what has happened with Obama, his white heritage is forgotten!
    Please.... let's get real!!!

    January 24, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. Linda32

    Unfortunately, he already has to be, but the thing is that is the life he grew up with. In order to succeed, he had to be better than great.

    January 24, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  12. Emma, San Jose

    Race should have no relevance to the job of a president. All presidents, of all persuasions, should be expected to do the job well. Many opponents of the Democratic party will find fault with Obama's administration, but it should be based on solid criteria, not his race.

    January 24, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. Frances Smith

    NO! Obama is President of the US now and he is the leader of all of us. The only thing that Obama has to do is to make sure he upholds the constitution, protect this land, make this country a little better for the people who live here, and make good on his campaign promises. If he does his job, like any other President, he'll be just fine, probably BETTER.

    January 24, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. PDX Gal

    Those kids are so cute. Obama won't have to be better because he's black.... or at least not MAINLY because he is black. But he will have to be better because we are in serious trouble and we need a leader that is extremely effective.
    He will also have to be better because he set very high expectations while on the campaign trail.

    Black or white, both of those things would require an extraordinary ability to lead.

    It is a good question, but I don't think the answer can really be discovered under the current circumstances. If we had a normal economy, and he won the election without a lot of very ambitious promises, then I think that would be a better stage to judge the answer to that question.

    January 24, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. Maura

    Everyone seems to forget that President Obama is bi-racial, thus half-white, half-black. I think it is unfortunate this rarely seems to be mentioned as he can be an inspiration for bi-racial children, Americans, and people around the world.

    January 24, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  16. Tracey

    Of course they will. That is the reality of how Americans have been socialized. Rush Limbaugh announced on his show that he hopes Obama, "fails." There you have it.

    January 24, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  17. Atlanta

    After 8 years of Bush, anybody would be better.

    January 24, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  18. warrencau

    why its just another job

    January 24, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  19. James

    No it will help him just as it has in this campaign and now we are already starting to set up a "its because he is black" to deal with any critics of Obama. To compare McCain's relationship with Hagee to Obama's with Wright is quite a stretch indeed. Hagee endorsed McCain while Obama brought his family for 20 years to a church that raged against America and it's "rich white people."
    I say Obama is a piece of liberial trash and consider this a complement because I am not going to treat him any different because he is black!!!!! Can't say that about the main stream media crying tears of joy give me a break!!!

    January 24, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. Mary WA

    NO-but he'll have to use his genius to get us out of the Bush degredation of this nation, from a falied economy to stripping the values of America and it's constitution.

    January 24, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. Gary in VA

    The answer to the question is YES!!!!! President Obama has little to no room for error. In modern time have you ever had it were media comments on every move or decision a US President makes from day to day or in this case minute to minute. It appears to be like an experiment of sorts. I am very confident in his ability. He is a Harvard Graduate for godsake unlike 98% of us who are not. Let the man be POTUS and do his job. The american people elected him and give us less critics. Gary in VA

    January 24, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. Kim

    I don't know why he *should* be held to a higher standard because of his race. It doesn't make sense to me. He's obviously an intelligent man, personable, an excellent orator, and the fact that he's African-American is not even something that I notice or care that much about.

    It just doesn't matter to me. I realize that it's an historical achievement for the African-American community, and that's something to be proud of, but I have never judged someone on the color of their skin.

    White, black, purple with polka-dots... I want him to succeed!

    January 24, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. Barack H. Obama 100%

    No. He just has to be better than Bush 43. Just like any other president that succeeded Bush 43!!!!

    January 24, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. Scott L

    Oh brother not another race article. Isn't he half white also? Makes no sense to me.

    January 24, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  25. California Gold

    John Blake (author): Why would you ask such a question? Are you that impertinent? I rather think President Obama's Presidency will be measured by his job performance. Don't you?

    President Obama has a law degree from Harvard, 12 years in politics, four years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and managed of one of the most impressively flawless and forward thinking presidential campaigns ever. What do you think he has to "be better" than?

    January 24, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
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