The 2008 presidential election was undoubtedly historic. America elected its first African-American president, and a woman got close enough to the White House to cause the nation to think, “What if?”
Amid all the historical advances, a small but influential piece of history was forgotten.
Not once, while I was watching news coverage of that election, did I hear the name Shirley Chisholm. I only learned of her in HST 328, Women in U.S. History: 1880-1980.
Shirley Chisholm ran for President in 1972 as an African American woman. She paved the road for people like President Barack Obama, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and yet she was hardly ever mentioned.
In her book, “Unbought & Unbossed,” Chisholm chronicles her life in politics. She worked for numerous political groups in college and in 1968 became the first African-American woman elected to Congress.
While her résumé was lengthy and impressive, her controversial outlook on American politics could be why her name hardly passed the lips of news anchors and politicians alike.
She stayed true to the ideal that a politician should be “unbought and unbossed.”
Nowadays this ideal is merely that — an ideal.
To get elected to an office, a candidate has to have money. This money usually comes from wealthy donors or interest groups.
And these interest groups will only give you money if you share the same morals and values. In turn, to get money, politicians sell their thinking space to the highest bidder and become their biggest advocate.
Upon being elected to Congress, Chisholm was placed on an agricultural committee, but refused to comply because she stated that her constituents from the 12th Congressional District of New York didn’t have any concern about agriculture; she was there to represent them.
This attitude of “by the people and for the people” that she conveyed could be a lesson to those in politics today.
The government is supposed to serve and protect the people of the country and nowadays the schmoozing and fighting all too often overshadow this fact.
It’s as if the government is a whole other world than the country they are running.
The goal of passing a bill should not be to win, but it should be to help the people, or at least the majority, because in reality you can’t please everyone.
There are numerous potential presidential candidates. Among them are Obama, Palin, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, businessman Donald Trump and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. This group includes both men and women.
Hopefully at least one of them will channel Chisholm and remember that politics isn’t about titles and positions, but about ensuring and protecting the good of the people.
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