As of February, 2016, there have been 1,963 members of the United States Senate, but only nine have been African American, and there have been 44 presidents but only one, Barack Obama, has been African American.
“On January 20, 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels, of Mississippi (originally of North Carolina) became the first African American elected to the United States Senate. Revels, a minister of the gospel, loved people and his Lord. Although successful as a politician, he chose to leave the Senate in 1871 to serve as President of Alcorn University, helping shape the lives of youth who could change the world.
“Five years later the second African American, Blanche K. Bruce (Mississippi), was elected to the Senate. Another 91 years passed before the third, Edward W. Brooke (Massachusetts), joined this political body, in 1966. And in 1992, Carol Moseley Braun (Illinois) became the fourth. While history says it is difficult to achieve, it is not impossible. It reminds us that persistence, planning, unity for a cause, service, and putting God first are traits that pay handsome dividends.” (This Far by Faith, Review and Herald Publishing Association) Senator Braun was the first and only black female to join this distinguished deliberative body. Senator Bruce was the only senator born a slave. (See The Negro Almanac, Bellweather Publishing Co., New York)
Following Senator Braun were Senators Barack Obama, Illinois 2005, Roland Burris, Illinois 2009, Tim Scott, S.C. 2013, William (Mo) Cowan, Massachusetts 2013, and Cory Booker, N.J 2013. (See Breaking New Ground, African American Senators, U.S. Senate) During this political season when several candidates are contending for the nomination and eventual election to the presidency of the United States, it is important to consider the Black History Month of February and some history of American politics. All achieved against much opposition. Never give up. Hopefully, many current leaders and youth will aspire and dream of future participation. Black history says, “Yes we can.”
General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State, has some rules for success for those persons who have high aspirations.
Colin Powell’s Rules:
1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done.
5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
8. Check small things.
9. Share Credit.
10. Remain calm.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
(My American Journey, Colin Powell, Random House)
United States Senate Chaplain Barry Black, for Chief of Chaplains for the United States Navy, also has some practical counsel for those struggling to climb a mountain of success.
“I try to remember my failures by performing an autopsy on my mistakes. I look for the tipping point, attempting to understand where I passed the point of no return. This analysis is helpful in preventing me from making similar mistakes in the future. When the emotions are gone and the heat of the moment is a distant memory, a dispassionate understanding of what went wrong is often more easily obtained. Failure, then, becomes a teacher whose instruction will produce positive dividends for years. These dividends often take the form of victory when I encounter the same temptation again. The knowledge that I am able to overcome something that would have beaten me in the past allows me to celebrate my troubles in victory.” (The Blessings of Adversity, Barry C. Black, Tyndale Publishing, 2011, pp 70, 71)
Some thoughts from the book, Persevere, may be helpful for those who do not choose to remain in their present status forever.
1. Pray. Praying is not just asking for things or seeking solutions to problems. It is a lifestyle, an attitude, and it is invisible evidence of a possible bright future regardless of the present.
2. Plan. This is a verb which one must do and a noun which should be written out and reviewed regularly with #1 above.
3. Prepare. Determine what personal, educational, and professional attributes will help you succeed. Never forget dependability, integrity, selflessness, [being a] good listener, and continue to improve written and verbal communication skills.
4. Prioritize. Put first things first. Take care of that which is most important but never ignore the small issues and the small defects which can sink your ship. Quickly resolve legal problems.
5. Persevere. Never give up in seeking to overcome obstacles. Never give in to intemperance or to opposition or offers which appear to be good for today but could cost you dearly tomorrow. Never underestimate the value of service in the interest of others.
These are five steps that will help get you started on your way to the top in your endeavors to make history and inspire others to service with excellence. (See Persevere, p. 181, CrossBooks Publishers, 2014)