1,000 Words: A seat at the table

The first days of January are an inspiring time when new political leaders take their shot at changing the world. For now, anything seems possible.

In Cincinnati today, Tamaya Dennard took the oath of office for the City Council.

She carried a folding chair with her in honor of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, who said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

“I am Shirley Chisholm. I am Barbara Jordan. I am Sandra Bland, and I am Marian Spencer,” Dennard said at the beginning of her first speech as a City Council member.

  • MrE85

    Dennard is the former chief of staff for another council member, so she should know not only how to make a statement and honor African-American women, but how city government works. I wish her the best. As Teddy R. said “The credit belongs to the people who are actually in the arena…”

    • How lucky am I to have lived in a time when Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan were alive and kicking? The art of inspiration through oratory is dying. Replaced by 140 characters and the political urge to “dumb down” to the lowest common denominator voter.

      • MrE85

        Like you, I don’t have to turn to Google to remember Chisholm and Jordan, and how they pioneered the way for African American women running for office everywhere. Ms. Chisholm, in particular, suffered no fools, as I recall.

        • Jack Ungerleider

          I watched a rebroadcast of Robert Redford’s documentary “All the President’s Men revisited” on MSNBC the other night. I was a kid (12-13 years old) during Watergate, but remember the presence that was Barbara Jordan on the House Judiciary committee. I remember in the 1980’s wondering if a good ticket for the Democrats might Bill Bradley and Barbara Jordan, in either order

          • There were so many incredible (AND YOUNG!) people on that committee. And all of them — Democrat and Republican — rose to the occasion. I don’t think we’ll ever see that sort of patriotism again.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            I agree that until something big happens that causes a less partisan alignment it may be tough to think that we will ever see that sort of “country first” thinking and action again.

            There were two people in the documentary that had a “seats” at the committee tables. One was Elizabeth Holtzman who was a young House Member from NY. From the Senate side they had former Tennessee Senator the late Fred Thompson who was the minority counsel of the Senate Select committee.

            Being from NY I remember the devastation we liberals felt when Al D’Amato beat Holtzman for Jacob Javits’s senate seat. Javits was from a Republican party that had a liberal wing (which for a while was led by Michigan Governor George Romney). For what it’s worth D’Amato was replaced by Chuck Schumer, the current Minority Leader.

      • Jerry

        Great politics oratory died with the Reagan sound bite. What’s happening now is the desecration of its corpse.

        If you want to be depressed by the state of modern political speeches, read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.

        • Kassie

          Nah. I remember the first time I ever heard of Barack Obama. It was because of this speech and was floored. My brother and I watched it over and over. Best speaker in my lifetime. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fMNIofUw2I

          • It’s the inspiration thing. I recall several years ago — 2008 perhaps — I was on a panel with some political types talking about the coming election and at one point, exasperated, I asked, “is it asking too much to be inspired by our leaders?”

            It brought down the house. It’s not that people want to be led. They want to be inspired to lead.

          • Jerry

            I think some people are being inspired, I’m just terrified about what they’re being inspired to do.

      • Mike
  • crystals

    Chills. (The good kind.)