By Linda Verin
For The Birmingham Times
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama will be forever intertwined in political history. Last week at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton was the first woman ever nominated as a major party nominee for president. In 2008, Obama was the first black person ever nominated as a major party nominee for the Oval Office.
Birmingham’s delegates to the convention in Philadelphia were asked to contrast the historic nominations for Clinton and Obama.
“I was more inspired by President Obama being nominated because I’m inspired by the struggle,” said state Senator Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham. “What a proud moment for our race. My grandmother could not vote because she was illiterate. Black people were not considered whole people. Attaining the highest office elected by all the people surely validated one person, one vote.”
Coleman said she was also proud of Clinton’s accomplishments. “I am happy for all women, not just African-American women, that with a woman president we can be recognized for our abilities and accomplishments,” Coleman said. “I haven’t forgotten the Suffragettes’ struggle. The Statue of Liberty welcomes all people; we are a melting pot. We must be a nation that embraces all; as Hillary says, ‘We are stronger together.’”
Shelia Smoot, Iheart Radio host and former Jefferson County Commissioner, said she cried when Obama became president.
“It was surreal,” she said. “Alabama was the first to nominate him. The feeling was overwhelming. When I was a child I was told I could be anything I wanted – but I did not believe it. Now a black man has served two terms as president and soon we hope to have a woman president.”
Jarralynne Agee, director of the Mayor’s Violence Reduction Initiatives for the city of Birmingham, said both nominations hold a special place in history.
“When Obama did it as an African American male it was a game changer that opened the door for Clinton,” Agee said. “Hillary Clinton becoming president seems a natural progression from her role as Secretary of State.”
While it is historic that a woman has been nominated Birmingham attorney Earl Hilliard, Jr. a former state representative, said Obama’s nomination was more personal.
“In 2008, the fact that an African-American male was chosen to be the standard bearer for our country was personal for me and my son,” he said. “In 2016, I am happy for my wife and daughter. Anyone can achieve no matter who you are. The women are energized; it will bring more females to the Democratic Party.”
Yvette Richardson, president pro-tem of the Alabama State School Board of Education, said Obama showed the world that anyone with qualifications can serve.
“The first woman nominee shows that females are no longer second class citizens,” she said. “With experience, determination and courage every American can fill any position, even president.”