Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blazing Trails Politically

I have a lot of opinions (strong ones) about politics in this country. I have even more opinions about the foreign policy of the United States with regards to the Middle East... but I'll save that for another day.

What I want to address at this moment, however, is the historic race that we have for the democratic presidential nominee. Regardless of the outcome in the nominating process for the democrats, or the eventual outcome of the presidential race, something important is happening.

There was a time in this country when it would have been impossible for a woman, or an African American man to mount a viable presidential campaign. That time was not so long ago. It simply wouldn't have happened.

We owe a debt of gratitude to these two people regardless of party affiliation or personal opinions about who would make the best president. They are literally blazing a trail in consciousness. They are changing, forever, the political landscape in America. They are rendering possible, something that has never been possible before.

They stand on the shoulders of others who have gone before them blazing various parts of the path that they now stand upon. There have been other African Americans who have entered presidential primaries. There have been women as candidates at other levels of government, including Geraldine Ferraro's Vice Presidential candidacy in 1984. All of these prior events have made possible what we see today.

Obama and Clinton are blazing an entirely new trail in American Politics. It will change our future, regardless of the outcome of this particular contest.

Shannon Faulkner was the first woman to be admitted to the Citadel in 1995. She achieved this by mounting a legal challenge to the prohibition against the admission of female cadets. She won that battle and was admitted. She went through 4 hours of introductory indoctrination, and then spent the rest of her first week in the infirmary, before resigning. The treatment she received at the hands of her male classmates was more than she could take.

Shannon Faulkner, however, deserves the credit for breaking a formidable barrier and blazing a trail that other women have been able to follow with less pain and difficulty. Nancy Mace was the first woman to graduate from the Citadel in 1999. She too, is another trail blazer who took it to the next level. Both women were essential in changing the face of the Citadel. By 2005, 6% of the Citadel’s cadets were women. In 10 years time the landscape has totally changed. It all started with Shannon Faulkner. She was on the very front line of making the change possible. Although she herself did not achieve the goal she set out to attain, she made it possible for every single woman who has come after her to have a shot at that goal. She is a hero, for breaking the 'impossibility barrier.'

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are breaking their own impossibility barriers in American politics. It is an exciting and future forming event that we are witnessing.

Hopefully, we will all witness the day when sex or race are not important considerations in the electability of political candidates. At the present moment, Obama and Clinton are laying the ground work so that day can come sooner, rather than later!

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