My Dad looked a lot like Barack Obama when he was young. And like Barack, he saw the world the way he thought it should be instead of the way it was. As a religious conscientious objector and Army Corporal, my Dad carried an officer’s heavy typewriter on his back during WWII. He was wounded in a jeep accident and you can still see the deep diagonal scar on his forehead.
When the war was over and my Dad finally came home, the first thing he wanted was a piece of apple pie and ice cream. And so, on that very first day home, in his country’s capitol of Washinton D.C, still proudly wearing the uniform of the United States armed services, and fresh from wartime duty – my Dad walked into a lunch counter to order a piece of that most American of all symbols of freedom, happiness and just deserts. But as he stood beaming and eagerly awaiting this smallest of rewards, he was turned away and refused service because, as he was told, that lunch counter “just didn’t serve Negroes”. I was 13 when my Dad shared this story. He was washing dishes at our kitchen sink and it was the first time I ever saw him cry.
My dear Dad and I now live on opposite sides of the country and we aren’t as close anymore as I think we’d both like to be. But I worked and volunteered for President Obama so that in his lifetime, my Dad might see a transformed reflection of himself in our nation’s capitol – from lunch counter outcast to White House Commander-in-Chief.