This week marked the unveiling of the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. It was wonderful timing in a month to honor African American history, to remember this historic president as the first African American U.S. president. But let me make it even more clear and more broad: Obama was the first non-white President, someone that most people of color identified with and loved.
Other historic points: Both portraits were by African American artists, the first to be given such commissions. Kehinde Wiley painted the President, and Amy Sherald depicted the First Lady. The portraits will hang in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Images available on CNN link below.)
These were consequential events, an intersection of art and history, for all Americans.
The former first lady said she was thinking about the impact Sherald’s work will have on “girls and girls of color.”“They will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this great American institution … And I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls,” she said.
The unveiling also was a powerful reminder of the dignity and humanity that we expect in our presidents and that Barack Obama exemplifies. By selecting these
artists, he and Michelle were making a thoughtful statement about who we are, about our talents and gifts, about race in America.
While words are important, wise leaders know their actions speak louder than words.
Note: Netflix is featuring a 2017 interview of Obama by David Letterman. It offers an oasis of calm and wit from the current chaos in our nation’s capital. Another reminder of presidential.