In 1964, amid a violent and deeply powerful Civil Rights movement, Bob Dylan’s twangy yet distinctively beautiful voice proclaimed to the world that “The Times They Are A-Changing.” With a new President taking over the Oval Office, Bob’s words ring just as loud and true in 2009. America’s newest Commander in Chief is not only noticeably young, handsome, and athletic, but something else seems different. His smile? The fact that he is left-handed? Or that he can drain a jump shot coming off a pick at the top of the key with a hand in his face?
Hold your breath folks but in case you haven’t heard, our newest President, Barack Hussein Obama, is an African-American. Yes, I said it. Following 43 previous brilliant and talented men, he is the first non-Caucasian to win the Presidency and has become a beacon of hope across all creeds, colors, and races.
To be fair, we should certainly acknowledge those who came before the President and helped pave the way for equality. Individuals like Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels, Representative Joseph Rainey, or Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, each the first African-American to enter his respective branch of government.
But it was 2004 when a young Senator from Illinois stood in front of the Democratic National Convention and entered the realm of a young Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter becoming “The Chosen One.”
Where was I on inauguration morning? Southwest Airlines Headquarters, Dallas, Texas, Training Room B. Luckily my wonderful and amazing boss in the Legislative Communications Department, Dorothy (I hope she reads this), had given me the OK to watch the festivities. As President Obama fumbled through the Oath of the Presidency I had goose bumps and a grin the size of Obama’s security team.
Now I know what everyone may be thinking. “Silly Mike, you are only 21 years old. You probably are too busy surfing around Facebook and listening to that crazy “Rock n’ Roll” music to care about things like this.”
While there may be truth about my age and I must admit, an occasional visit to Facebook along with some awesome music tastes, I’ve got news for you: I am extraordinarily proud to consider myself a part of the Obama era and can’t wait to tell my children’s children about January 20, 2009. This great nation has always been about progress: the Constitution, Emancipation Proclamation, Women’s Right to Vote, Civil Rights Acts, and finally, Barack Obama. Political preferences and arguing aside, how can one not be thrilled to have witnessed such a monumental surge in the progressivity of America?
Not surprisingly, Southwest Airlines holds a similar view. I’m not talking about politics here, but speak of the Freedoms that Southwest so strongly stands beside. A sincere emphasis on empowering Employees and Customers. Look at Captain Lou Freeman for example. In 1980, Southwest hired Lou as its first African-American Pilot and by 1992, a promotion to Captain put Southwest ahead of the curve when Lou became the first African-American Chief Pilot of any major airline carrier. Lou’s selfless service to Southwest, the industry, and humanity itself has provided him with numerous awards, including an official resolution passed in the Illinois Congress honoring and congratulating him.
This is what Southwest Airlines is about. Lou Freeman is a symbol of not just our airline, but our support for Black History Month. This February, in celebration of Black History Month, we should all take a step back and remember both the notably famous and modestly unknown who so bravely fought for equality in America. Sincere thanks to these individuals with a Warrior Spirit and Servant’s Heart that we honor this month.