What Barack Obama Owes Michael Jackson

More

They were born three years and 24 days apart. And a more than an ocean separated the only child of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother and the Gary, Indiana kid who was the seventh of nine children. It would be wrong to read too much political meaning into the career of Michael Jackson and that of Barack Obama. (No one is thinking tonite that Hillary Clinton owes a debt of gratitude to Farrah Fawcett.) But it would be myopic to say that Jackson had a huge cultural impact and no political impact, either.

 After all, as much as the oft mentioned Huxtables of "The Cosby Show" fame or any number of crossover African-American politicians, Jackson broke down walls between races with music that sent suburban whites and inner-city blacks to say, "I want my MTV!", the fledgling cry of the music cable network when it was still trying to get pickup. 

In his androgyny and overall weirdness, Jackson was never really a role model in the sense that you could try and be like him. His talents were too otherworldly and so were his oddities. But he was entertaining and by bringing people together, especially in the 80s when race relations seemed more strained--remember Howard Beach or "Do the Right Thing?" or the Giuliani-Dinkins race--that meant something. 

I don't have my copy of "Dreams From My Father" at hand to know if the 44th president mentions Jackson but it's hard to imagine that he didn't have a disc to take with him to Occidental or Columbia. And if he didn't own one, he surely knew the words which made him like everyone else. Barack Obama lived a life of accomplishment, an upward trajectory from Punahou to Harvard, Springfield to the White House that seems incredibly void of demons whereas Jackson was all demons. They're no more alike personally than  

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Death of Film: After Hollywood Goes Digital, What Happens to Movies?

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In