Happy President’s Day! Over this holiday weekend, I’ve been reflecting on last month’s Inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th President, and imagining how much NCL’s founders and champions would have liked this man. First off, they would have been proud that our American electorate has voted overwhelming for the second time to send an African American to the White House. During her most active organizing years, Florence Kelley often decried the disreputable treatment of her Black colleagues who were many times banned from hotels and restaurants when social workers or women’s groups gathered at conferences across the country.
Secondly, though our president is moderate in all of his actions, he also has a strong progressive streak that leaders like Florence Kelley, Frances Perkins and Josephine Roche would have greatly appreciated. After being elected with a healthy margin, Obama seems willing to be a little more daring, and thankfully not intimidated by those who fixate on debt and, instead, focus on other priorities: championing comprehensive immigration reform, addressing the pay gap between men and women in the workplace, raising the minimum wage and tying it to inflation, and educating pre-schoolers and giving them a leg up on their future.
The President also announced the formation of a commission to address the rampant problems in the nation’s voting system—and hailed a 102-year-old North Miami woman named Desilene Victor, who endured hours of waiting to vote in the last election. These issues would all have won favor with NCL’s leaders.
Obama challenged his opponents on their opposition to tax increases for the rich at the expense of kids and seniors: “After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks?” Another issue near and dear to the hearts of the NCL’s founders.
The president also called for an infrastructure-boosting bridge-building program and insisted, very forcefully and long overdue that climate change be at the top of the agenda; no, these were not programs that Kelley, Perkins or Roche knew of in their day, but I think they would have approved, largely because these programs mean jobs for working Americans and will protect future generations.