Obama on the Rosa Parks bus

I know this photo has been absolutely everywhere since White House photographer Pete Souza sent it out via Twitter earlier today, but I couldn’t help myself. It’s an incredibly moving image. How could it not be? Here, we’ve got our first black President sitting on the bus where, just 57 years earlier, Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat for a white man, setting the American civil rights movement in motion. As depressed as I often get over the state of our nation, it’s nice to be reminded on occasion that, in some ways, we’ve made an incredible amount of progress. Anyway, I hope this photo makes your heart swell with patriotic pride, the way that it does mine.

Here’s what Obama had to say about the experience.

“I just sat in there for a moment and pondered the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history, but is also part of that long line of folks who sometimes are nameless, oftentimes didn’t make the history books, but who constantly insisted on their dignity, their share of the American dream.”

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20 Comments

  1. Posted April 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    For those of you who are looking for a little parenting advice…. I’d highly recommend taking your kids to the Henry Ford Museum, where they can see this bus. Some of the most incredible conversations that I’ve ever had with Clementine have taken place right there, where Obama is sitting.

  2. Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    And, yes, I am tempted to mention Obama’s somewhat questionable record when it comes to civil rights… I’m trying to hold back for a few minutes, though, as I want the good feelings to last.

  3. Edward
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    The irony is that the crude, white Texan, LBJ, was probably a better President for the black people of America. Still, though, it’s an incredible photo.

  4. K2
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I’m tying not to be cynical, but it comes across as very deliberate to me. The fact that no one else is on the bus with him, makes me think that it’s posed. It’s smart. No doubt. But I don’t sense authenticity.

  5. Mr. X
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    It’s worth noting, I think, that those seats accommodated two people each in 1955. Yes, we have indeed grown as a nation.

  6. Brian
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Interesting… I was on that bus in January and the seat that President Obama is sitting in is not the seat that a docent told me Rosa Parks sat in…

    Have I been – gasp – MISLED? Which seat is the real seat?? Why am I on markmaynard.com at midnight on a Friday???

    Sigh.

  7. Kodak Moment
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Edward and K2’s can’t-help-myself cynical comments can’t undermine the truth:

    A black president is posing for photo opps on the Rosa Parks’ bus.

    The fact that it’s deliberate, makes it even more real. It’s huge.

    Progress doesn’t come in news cycle highlights. It takes some decades. But it can be made. I think it’s worth a pause of celebration to dance to progressive success in the cause for equality. Where we are in terms of minority rights … gay, gender, race … is an amazing success.

    But, as a country founded on “all are created equal,” these victories, despite the speed bumps of bigotry, are predictable. Of course, where Liberals seem unable to gain traction is in the economic sphere.

    In the next decade the boundaries of race, gender, orientation will become increasingly replaced by class and potential. Don’t take this the wrong way (playing into prejudices), but we will elect a transvestite Latina president before we make the bloated rich pay more taxes.

    One idea is American, the other is not.

    This photo opp is one big step forward. And one stuck in the mud.

    This photo opp is built on decades of outcry, moral indignation and sacrifice. It means something.

    But it’s time we moved past equality of body to a culture of care.

  8. Leif
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    He sure looks lonely. Nobody from any race will sit with him?

  9. Mr. Y
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    They don’t tell white guys where the real Rosa Parks seat is, Brian.

  10. john
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    What makes you think Brian is white?

  11. anonymous
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Maybe it was his use of “…”

    I’ve never seen a black man do that.

    Then again, I’ve never known a black man named Brian.

    As for the photo, it’s lovely… until you realize that Obama just ran in there, to hide from the Ted Nugent fans chasing him through the museum.

  12. Elf
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    An article on Obama’s dismal civil rights record.

    http://politics.salon.com/2012/04/20/obamas_dismal_civil_liberties_record/singleton/

  13. Kodak Moment
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to talk about LBJ’s dismal record of serving white America.

    As he was a white president, I would have expected a bit more loyalty from LBJ.

    Elf. The article is about his “civil liberties” record not his “civil rights” record. If you’re unsure of the difference, let me know, and I’ll explain how Wikipedia works for you.

  14. Thom Elliott
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    “But its time we moved past equality of body to a culture of care.” Amazing! A singular moment of insight! A person who can sense there is something missing entirely from the sociopathic gesticulations of the open warlike RealPolitik of modernity. What is this thing missing the nonphilosopher can sense? Unfortunately for both technological “democracy” and the 100% mediated images we “elect” to “lead” us, the actual structor of our human being is care (Sorge). We are not merely the superfical beings who are illustrated in the industrial media as obsessed with economics, industry, and jobs, but embodied conciousness that cares, not racial statistics but being-in-the-world.

  15. Lisa Spielman
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Where are there the photos of Obama sitting in the Wienermobile?

  16. Viktor Zulu
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    This looks like a shameless political opportunism photo-op in an election year. I think I can just barely, maybe see Tim Geithner crouched down, hiding behind the last seat in the bus. He’s probably barking out stage directions like “look pensive” or “look dreamy about far away places”.

  17. Bruce
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Typical Obamanably-pulled race carred; steering the bUS from left center, rather than the effective, left Front DRIVER’S SEAT!

  18. anonymous
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    It’s funny that Obama can have a photo taken of him at a museum, just sitting on an antique bus, and be accused of “playing the race card”.

  19. Posted April 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Brian is right, Obama was not in the seat from which Rosa Parks was arrested (but, did anyone ever say that he was?). Here’s a court document showing where Parks was sitting; Obama was in the correct row, but on the wrong side.

  20. anonymous
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    What? Obama’s on the wrong side of the aisle? Unbelievable.

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