Monday, June 18, 2007

Take Credit for Tiger Woods, And Who Else?

I'm not sure what the specific fraction is, but I believe Tiger Woods is less than one-third African-American. Somehow this has escaped the African-American community when taking credit for his major accomplishments (this weekend he finished second in the U.S. Open; he's finished 1-1-2-2 in the last four majors).

If we're willing to take credit for Woods' historic feats (as we did when he stormed the scene by winning the '97 Master's), why not take credit for those of other African-Americans?

Case in point, Condoleezza Rice. She started out in the Deep South like other notable African-Americans, Oprah Winfrey and Martin Luther King, Jr. The daughter of a minister and teacher, both faith and education were important aspects of Rice's childhood and sense of duty. Eventually, her family moved to Denver where she would go on to receive her B.A. in political science (Phi Beta Kappa honors) from the University of Denver. After picking up a Master's in poly sci from Notre Dame, she returned to Denver to secure a Ph.D. in international studies.

Dr. Rice then went on to serve in various capacities in government and higher education, including rising from assistant professor to Provost at Stanford University, where she became the school's youngest and first minority leader and helped turn around a $20 million budget shortfall into a nearly $15 million surplus in just a couple years on the job.

Simultaneously, Dr. Rice became one of America's foremost experts on the Soviet Union and German reunification (after the fall of the Berlin Wall), which helped her become a trusted international affairs and national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, who also appointed another African-American-Colin Powell (previously served as National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan)-as the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the successful Gulf War.

When Powell was named the nation's first African-American Secretary of State by President George W. Bush in 2001, Dr. Rice was quickly named National Security Advisor. Four years later, she's followed in Powell's shoes as the nation's second-ever black or female Secretary of State. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

And aside from the Middle East policies that have conflicted the nation, Secretary Rice has earned the praise of several around the world for her commitment to Africa (see this month's issue of Vanity Fair for evidence) including her contributions as chair of the Millenium Challenge Corporation which provides much-need aid to dozens of countries around the world, including Ghana and Uganda. Even U2 frontman Bono gives her and her boss credit for upping America's commitment to improving Africa.

But even while Secretary Rice is considered one of the world's most influential and powerful individuals (both Time and Forbes magazine agree), her status and contributions are minimized by the African-American community in comparison to people like Woods and Oprah Winfrey.

Perhaps its because she's a Republican. Perhaps its because we're more familiar with successful African-Americans in sports and entertainment, but not-so-much in politics. Regardless, the first step to appreciating real role modes in the African-American community is to acknowledge them and their contributions.

Some of these role models may not have the prestige of being the Secretary of State or even being a professional athlete, but I'm sure they're worthy of our recognition just the same.

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