In the midst of his impromptu speech on Friday about the Trayvon Martin case and broader issues of race in the nation, President Barack Obama recalled his own past encounters with racial bias and profiling. Long before he had a Secret Service detail to shadow him, the president remembered, he was followed as he perused department stores. His remarks led Katie Rosman of the Wall Street Journal to recall an occasion when Obama was mistaken for a waiter at a swanky party in 2003.
Then a little-known Illinois state senator who'd only recently embarked on a U.S. Senate campaign, Obama had looked out of place at the gathering of prominent journalists, Rosman wrote in 2008, noting that he was "one of a few black people in attendance."
Rosman approached Obama and spoke with him for a while about his political career, not knowing that the man would one day go on to win his Senate election and eventually his race for the nation's highest office. She said what struck her most, however, was what a fellow party-goer told her after her conversation with Obama:
But what I will always remember is as I was leaving that party in 2003, I was approached by another guest, an established author. He asked about the man I had been talking to. Sheepishly he told me he didn’t know that Obama was a guest at the party, and had asked him to fetch him a drink. In less than six years, Obama has gone from being mistaken for a waiter among the New York media elite, to the president-elect.
What a country.