Rep. John Lewis jokingly says he'll try to resist calling Barack Obama “Brother President” after he's sworn in as the nation's first African-American president on Jan. 20.
“He is not just our president, he's the president of all Americans,” said Lewis, D-Ga., “the president of black Americans, Latino Americans – all Americans.”
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are still giddy that Obama, a caucus member when he was a senator, is about to become the 44th president. Speaking at a panel at Williams College on Monday night, Lewis and eight other caucus members spoke of crying, jumping for joy, and celebrating on Nov. 4.
But there's also a recognition among caucus members that Obama's election won't necessarily give them an express lane into the Oval Office.
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the House Majority Whip and a former caucus chairman, warned against Obama “lurching,” or trying to quickly rack up successes to reward groups that voted for him.
“He's at 75 percent approval in the polls . . . as high as anybody taking office. Anybody,” Clyburn said. “That could dissipate overnight if you lurch too far left or right . . . I don't want to do anything quickly, I want to do it lastingly.”
Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., thinks that issues affecting African-Americans – such as the gaps dividing blacks from whites in health care, education and employment – will be dealt with by Obama in time.
Nonetheless, expectations are immense.
And Bruce Ransom, a political science professor at Clemson University, said that's a common burden for African-American political “firsts.”
“This is probably a situation in which there are a number of individuals and constituent groups that, in many cases in which promises have not been made, believe because of what Obama represents that he will carry out their agenda,” Ransom said.
Obama has tried to dampen those expectations. Absent from Obama's election night victory speech was a quote he often used as a candidate from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about “the fierce urgency of now.”
Obama told supporters in Chicago's Grant Park that America faces a long road.