On Sunday, the White House shared a wonderful video of the President's meeting with an incredibly energetic African American lady named Virginia McLaurin.
McLaurin, who is 106, was invited to take part in Black History Month celebrations -- fulfilling a long held dream of hers to visit the White House. “I thought I would never live to get in the White House,” said an overjoyed McLaurin, who began dancing in the presence of the Obamas. “I am so happy… a black president; a black wife; and I’m here to celebrate black history.”
“You have just made our day, you know that?” the first lady told McLaurin. “That energy. Man.”
The moment was as poignant as it was delightful, and a reminder that while there is much racism in the United States and around the world, sometimes we have cause to believe we are capable of real progress.
Obama's presidency has not been a perfect one, and there is certainly much to criticize, particularly as it relates to the plight of African Americans. Although hamstrung by Republicans are virtually every turn, his record on improving their day to day life leaves much to desire. But one cannot ever underestimate what his presidency means symbolically.
Born in South Carolina in 1909, McLaurin grew up in a state where marriage between blacks and whites was illegal, school segregation was mandatory and lynching was a common occurrence. She witnessed discrimination and hatred that few people alive today could even begin to imagine, yet survived it all to find herself dancing with a black President of the United States and his black wife.
Even 15 years ago, few people would have ever believed this possible.
Virginia McLaurin's joyous visit to the White House does not mark the end of racism in America, but provides a powerful symbol of how far the country has come, and where it might one day end up.