Barack Obama made history as the nation’s first black president when he was elected in 2008. For many African-Americans, the achievement held added significance because it was something many thought they would never witness in their lifetime.
When Barack first ran for office in 2007, Atlanta resident Sonny Ward, a self-described optimist, said he thought the young Senator from Chicago had a real chance to win.
“To see a black man become president in my lifetime was quite an event,” said Ward.
The Mississippi native attended Jackson State University and was drafted after graduation.
Ward moved to Atlanta in the late ’60’s for a job at Lockheed-Martin, and then went on to work for General Motors.
“I was always an admirer of him while he was in office and his wife and family,” he said.
Reflecting on Mr. Obama’s two terms in office, the 80-year-old especially admired Barack and Michelle Obamas’ work on behalf of America’s children, and believes they served as great role models for black youth.
“I think it was great especially for our youth, and we need role models you know,” said Ward. “You know we always say we need role models here’s somebody they can actually see looks like me. They see President Obama and Michelle and they say I can do that too. Before they say that’s as far as I can go where I am right now. Now that layer has been removed I hope and they can move on up as far as you want to be. You can be anything you want if you put your mind to it and study. Stay in school and study.”
While he believes the country was moving in the right direction under Mr. Obama’s leadership, Ward wishes the former president would have done more for the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“One thing I always hoped that he would help the HBCU’s which he didn’t get a chance to really do because I’m a product of HBCUs and I’m a strong proponent of HBCUs. I like what they are doing; I know they are taking care of their students. You’re not just a number,” said Ward.
He continued, “If he could’ve helped us financially we could’ve had more programs probably could’ve had more engineers, more doctors or something like that you know.”
While Ward wishes Mr. Obama could’ve done more on that front, he believes the former president and the first family helped challenge negative stereotypes African-Americans face at home and abroad, while paving the way for future generations of African-Americans with presidential aspirations.
“Oh, yes, we have some kids coming up now very, very, very smart,” said Ward. “I look for them to be president.”