If Sen. Barack Obama eventually becomes our president, if I were his campaign staff, one of the people I'd definitely be express mailing invites for the inauguration, the parades and the galas to would be actor Dennis Haysbert.
As you fans of the Fox show 24 already know, Haysbert played President David Palmer on the show before his character was assassinated. He currently stars as Major Jonas Blaine on the CBS show The Unit and was quoted in a recent interview as saying, "If anything, my portrayal of David Palmer, I think, may have helped open the eyes of the American people."
Before some of you start laughing about that assertion, let me school y'all for a minute about the power of television.
It was a TV show called Star Trek that inspired a Chicago schoolgirl named Mae Jemison to become the first African-American female astronaut launched into space. In addition to that, it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself who urged actress Nichelle Nichols not to quit her role as Lt. Uhura when she met him at a NAACP event.
The 1963 televising of firehoses and dogs being loosed on nonviolent protesters in Birmingham and 'Bloody Sunday' at Selma in 1965 not only helped sway public support for civil rights, and end overt Jim Crow racism in the South, but probably paved the way for the 1964-65 Civil Rights Acts to pass as well.
The television show A Different World during its broadcast run from 1987-1993, in conjunction with the Spike Lee movie School Daze helped cause an estimated 25% spike in admissions applications to HBCU's all over the country.
I credit Rebecca Romijn's role as transwoman Alexis Meade on Ugly Betty combined with Barbara Walters 20/20 show on transgender children among other factors with the increased success we're having in terms of getting transgender civil rights codified into law. Those shows helped create more awareness and more positive perceptions about transgender people. My own peeps have a little catching up to do, and Hollywood has yet to create positive transgender characters of color similar to an Alexis Meade, but that's another post.
Haysbert's comments are interesting in the context of this historic campaign. They are definitely food for thought and I'm not dismissing them outright. Haysbert also put his money where his mouth is by donating $2,300 to the Obama campaign.
What we know is that Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. He beat Sen. Hillary Clinton for that nomination, who had a historic campaign in her own right possibly aided in the same manner by the 2005-2006 ABC show Commander In Chief, in which Geena Davis plays the first female president, Mackenzie Allen.
If Dennis Haysbert's role helped open some minds to the possibility that an African-American could not only win the presidency but competently do the job, and it results in a historic inauguration for Sen. Obama on January 20, 2009, then it's all good.