The Collegian
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Acclaimed journalist speaks about Obama's historic election

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson spoke Wednesday night at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and addressed the new realities of race and politics since President Obama's election.

In his speech, "We're Someplace We've Never Been: Race, Diversity, and the New America," Robinson expressed his amazement about the way President Obama's administration has been discussed in the media just more than two months after his inauguration.

"Here we are on April 1," Robinson said, "and I am stunned how little we talk about electing our first black president."

The momentous, historic nature of Obama's presidency has been underplayed, considering how little and how briefly the media has discussed what the landmark of change means for the country, he said. To illustrate the significance of Americans electing their first black president, Robinson spoke about his childhood growing up in the segregated South.

Robinson's hometown is Orangeburg, S.C., where segregation was so alive during his childhood that he described it as the "Jim Crow South." As Robinson grew up, he witnessed the incredible struggle and occasionally violent battles to desegregate schools and public institutions.

Comparing this environment with today's media, which so quickly stopped looking at Obama as our first black president, Robinson departed from telling his personal history and looked instead at the current reality.

"Obama's election was left behind in the whirlwind of other things we have to think about," he said.

Robinson added that the "perfect storm" of crises that the Obama administration has faced since he took office have left little time for commentators and news media to ask these questions about what electing President Obama means for America.

"The main things we remember Obama for will have little to do with his race," he said.

The University of Richmond Young Democrats hosted the event, with co-sponsorship from the Richmond Quest Program. Kevin Farrelly greeted guests on behalf of the Young Democrats. Jepson School's Tom Shields introduced Robinson.

Contact reporter Amelie LeBreton at amelie.lebreton@richmond.edu

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