There Are No More Excuses

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When Obama takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, he will face expectations above and beyond anything ever demanded of the heroic black leaders of our history—from Frederick Douglass to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

[On The Inauguration]

Who among us—especially those of my generation—ever dared believe that an American of African heritage would ascend to the highest office in the land in our lifetime?

Barack Obama first appeared on the cover of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine in October 2004 when he was running for the Senate next to the headline The Next Big Thing in Politics. Our publication endorsed Obama for president with a second cover in January 2008, long before the primary season ended, and we concluded our year with his third historic cover when the November 2008 issue hit the newsstands next to the headline Yes We Must!

I am proud to be able to say that I believed in the historic candidacy of Barack Obama from the start and worked day and night during the months leading up to election day to help realize it.

This year has culminated in a triumph that belongs to every American, and it must be clearly understood by all of us that Obama was elected to be the president of all the people of our nation, not just Black Americans. The challenges awaiting our president-elect—ranging from our critically damaged economy to the security of our nation against the global threat of terrorism—are serious issues that must be resolved for the greater good of all.

When Obama takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, he will face expectations above and beyond anything ever demanded of the heroic Black leaders of our history—from Frederick Douglass to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Nevertheless, few would deny that when Obama is inaugurated it will be an indelible moment made possible by every African American who ever refused to accept the diminished roles once ascribed to us. It belongs to every African American who put asunder the restrictive bonds of racism, injustice, and inequality to defy the odds and achieve something lasting and great.

But let us be clear. The presidential inauguration of Obama is not just about one, world-changing moment. For African Americans, it marks the birth of a new movement, one with a simple defining creed: No more excuses. To our young black men, too many of whom have been allowed to embrace the sin of low expectation: No more excuses.

To Black professionals lamenting racism on the job while worshiping daily at the altar of personal mediocrity: No more excuses. To those obsessed with the trappings of wealth yet who refuse to invest in their own financial education or to exercise fiscal discipline: No more excuses. To those who complain about the ills of our community but are unwilling to invest their time, money, or energy to bring about solutions: No more excuses.

The election of Obama to the Oval Office proves once and for all that we can achieve anything as African Americans. The question is no longer whether anything is possible, the question is whether we are committed to doing what needs to be done.

No one is saying it will be easy—after all, racism is still alive, even if it’s been dealt a serious setback by the majority of American voters—but we can no longer accept that it cannot be done. Yes, the ceilings on our potential still exist, but we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are not impermeable. The rallying cry of the Obama campaign was not "Yes He Can" but "Yes We Can." Now that we have, now that the impossible has proven possible after all, there is no turning back. There are no more excuses.

Mr. Graves is the Chairman and founder of Earl Graves Publications, the parent company of Black Enterprise magazine

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