In the summer of 1961, when “Negro” anything, always meant “first” something, I was a rising senior, attending John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles. I was a member of the Scholastic Sports Association, a daily high school sports reporting network associated with the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper.
One of the SSA brass was affiliated with the Hollywood “Miracle Mile” Post of the American Legion. In 1961–as it had done for countless years and most certainly continues to do even now–the American Legion took 800 boys to the State Capital in Sacramento for a week-long camp-out, ultimate reality show, and exercise in the American form of government called California Boys State. I was chosen to represent the American Legion Miracle Mile Post in 1961.
At the conclusion of Boys State, two boys are chosen to represent that state in the ultimate assembly: Boys Nation.
It was at Boys Nation one year later when Arkansas Boys Nation Delegate William Jefferson Clinton had his picture taken with Pres. John F. Kennedy, causing young Bill to believe he was then destined to himself become President of the United States of America. Which he did.
There were seven other Black boys at California Boys State in 1961. Most were very impressive “First Negro” type of Dudes. They all seemed to be scholar-athletes destined for great things in the future.
Me? I was more the Class Clown. Hey: Dare to Giggle. Dare to Grin. That’s my motto.
So, in a cynical moment, I sold my chance to be President of the United States, for $5. Here’s how the deal was “structured.” (I realize that no White Boy worth his salt would have paid any Negro Boy good money for the Negro Boy’s life-long chance to be President.) He paid me in special 1961 California Boys State money! Worth only slightly more than your basic “Monopoly” money.
But I still think I got the better part of that deal. (If I had only held on to that Boys State money, and could just get it appraised on one of those antiques TV shows, ah-h, but I digress.) I think the fact that I had sense enough to barter my chance to be President, makes me think I wasn’t the outright “square” I always thought myself to be. So, I pat myself on the back for having been that “Nickel Slick,” back in the day.
No Black guys my age had a real chance to be President. The Rev. Jesse Jackson gave it a good run, but no one ever believed he was going to be President. The Rev. Jackson’s run meant that Black Secret Service Agents, my age and folks in that government apparatus would all finally get chances to lead and succeed. But, none of them had a snowball’s chance in Purgatory, of ever, ever being the President.
Doug Wilder never had a chance to be President. Neither did Andrew Young, Walter Fauntroy, Harold Washington, and David Dinkins. None of them had a chance. But I did get a White House Press, and got to attend some of the President’s Press Conferences.
But now, there is a Black man, who really has a chance to be President. It’s hard to believe that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama might very well become President.
I wouldn’t trade the possibility of seeing that come true, for all the fool’s gold, or real good you could stack on a table. A Black President indeed!