Perhaps no leader in American life feels the historical significance of Barack Obama’s inauguration and his political imperatives more than Terrance Carroll, who two weeks ago became the first African-American elected Speaker of the House in Colorado.
The historic vote of confidence by his colleagues for 39-year-old Carroll makes Colorado the first state in the union where both legislative leaders are African-American, following the election last year of Sen. Peter Groff as the first African-American to lead the senate. The Colorado legislature has only two black members. And now they are the two most powerful members of the 100-person body.
“I was awestruck,” Rep. Carroll told the Good News Network from his office last Tuesday, several hours after President Obama took the oath of office. “Not only by the speech, but to see people shoulder to shoulder so energized and enthused by Barack Obama and by his message of hope and renewal.”
Terrance Carroll grew up in a housing project in D.C.. He knows what a mother’s sacrifice can do to propel a minority kid all the way to the statehouse in Colorado, governing a population that is made up of only 4% African-Americans.
In that statehouse he watched the inauguration on jumbo screens with his fellow legislators.
“One of my most memorable moments of the speech was when he made his call for all of us to sacrifice, and a call for service. His call reminds us that we are all in this together. Too often we forget the need for service the need for patience, for collective work and collective responsibility.”
“At the end of the speech when he retold the story of Washington crossing the Delaware River, it was an extremely emotional moment. Because he talked about the fact that we are in difficult times but in the midst of being in the icy river, like they were in the Delaware, that we can still do great things because we have the opportunity to do great things.”
“He was echoing Dr. King to a degree when he said the measure of the man is not where they stand in times of relative comfort and peace but where that person stands in times of great difficulty… The true test of this country will come right now, when we are in the midst of wars and economic crisis.”
And that same test is coming right to Carroll’s doorstep in Colorado, where legislators face a $600 million budget shortfall. Like Obama, in order to turn things around, Carroll believes he needs to find common ground and common direction to keep members across the aisle from retreating to their pre-determined ideological corner.
“We didn’t get where we are as Republicans and Democrats separately, we got here as a state in Colorado.”
Rep. Carroll agrees with the president’s suggestion in his inaugural speech that Americans “put aside childish ways”.
“That is one of my favorite passages from scripture. It talks about how we are adults and we have to put our childish ways behind us, and I think America is ready to do that.”
“I am more humbled than anything else to know that my colleagues trusted me and put this much responsibility on my shoulders, and I pray every day that I’m able to bear the burden and continue to walk tall.”