As I write, MSNBC and CNN are all a-flutter with their continuing coverage of Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States. They’ve covered the president-elect’s whistle stop train tour as he made his way from Delaware to Washington DC. I watched it off and on for several hours, and frankly, it became redundant. It was like watching the Super Bowl pre-game show or one of the interminable red carpet warm-ups for the movie and TV awards programs flooding the airwaves these days. These are nice and all, in a fawning all over ourselves sort of way. They give us ample time to collect up our chips, dips, and assorted beverages before settling into our comfy sofas for the main event.
I’m ready for the main event already. There are only so many chips, dips, and adult beverages one can consume between the warm-up and the main event. Today, as Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America, we’ll say our farewells, fond and otherwise, to Dubbya, and finally stop referring to Barack as President-elect Obama. We’ll breathe a collective sigh of relief, even as we look with some trepidation to the future. It’s not that we fear the change that has finally come; it’s the glut of souvenirs from third parties that will send our heads swirling.
Don’t get me wrong. I have my own little collection of Obama memorabilia (campaign buttons I acquired during the journey, my “Yes We Did” poster from MoveOn, an article I wrote nearly a year ago supporting him); little items I treasure from the campaign itself. I’m equally proud that I don’t own any of those so-called limited edition Franklin Mint Obama gold coins, and I haven’t bought any of those “Special Edition” news magazines commemorating Obama’s election. Nor do I recommend anybody rushing out to buy the various cable news channel DVDs that are already available for pre-order.
I will recommend one DVD, however: President Barack Obama: The Man and His Journey is to be released today. As souvenirs go, it’s about as good as it gets. As you might expect, it’s a bit on the sentimental side and lacks a lot of depth, but as a straightforward biography it contains several nuggets that have hitherto gone unnoticed in the whirlwind of the 2008 campaign.
For instance, as a state senator in Illinois, he introduced an unprecedented 800 bills, 181 of which were passed into law. We also realize that his multi-ethnic heritage forged his viewpoints, not fitting in anywhere in the traditional sense made him fit in everywhere. It may very well be that his love of basketball, both as a participant and as a spectator, shaped his competitive prowess.
What really stands out in this portrait, though, is the attention given to Obama’s formidable intellect and his determination to make things happen. The Man and His Journey is narrated by Blair Underwood, and features exclusive interviews with Martin Luther King III, George Lopez, Hill Harper, Roland Martin, Linda Johnson Rice, and Congressman Jesse Jackson, as well as other prominent national personalities in the fields of politics, entertainment, religion, business, and academia.
This is a portrait created out of admiration. Co-produced by Ebony/Jet and Vivendi Entertainment, it doesn’t offer a lot of controversy, though there are clips of the McCain-Palin gaffes during the latter days of the campaign. Even those, though, are brushed off as part of Obama’s strategy. So are the sparse extra features, consisting mainly of seven vignettes that showcase Brian McKnight’s song “Yes We Can,” and also showcase Obama’s view on economics, family, the war, economics, and the like. There’s also an official Obama holographic trading card.
President Barack Obama: The Man and His Journey is somewhat uneven as it tells of the man’s meteoric rise to the presidency. It would be nice if it spent a bit more time on his struggles, and a little less on how he triumphed despite those odds. The new President has major obstacles confronting him, as do all of us, but for now, celebrating his ascendancy is an inspiration to all of us.
For the first time in our history, we can really believe the mantra that anyone can arise to any position they want to attain. Yes we can, indeed.