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Commentary: Sasha's smile could be a guide to our future

  • Story Highlights
  • Roland Martin: Sasha Obama laughed joyously after her father took the oath
  • He says her generation won't have the same racial burden as its parents
  • Martin: Sasha is growing up in a world of diversity, with great possibilities
  • Martin: In a diverse world, Obama's skin tone strengthens America
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: A nationally syndicated columnist, Roland S. Martin is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and "Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America." Visit his Web site for more information.

Sasha Obama laughs after her father takes the oath of office for president of the United States.

Roland S. Martin says Sasha Obama is from a generation raised in a diverse world and open to possibility.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- There are so many things that we could take away and remember forever regarding the inauguration of the first African-American president in the history of the United States, but I'll always remember the laughter of a little girl.

Shortly after President-elect Barack Obama finished the oath and became President Barack Obama, he joined hands with his family and waved to the cheering voices of 1.8 million people packed from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

People cried, others hugged, celebrities and everyday folks snapped photos to capture the moment.

There really was an amazing energy that permeated the crowd as we all witnessed a barrier come tumbling down before our eyes.

But what stood out for me was a moment when President Obama looked down at his 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, and she said something to him, and then let out this huge laugh.

I don't know whether it was her statement or his response, but the bubbly child was having the time of her life. The sheer joy that was on her face as she grinned from ear to ear caused me to just start laughing as I watched her reaction.

I was shooting photos from the CNN platform just across from where he spoke, and one of the many images was of a beaming Sasha alongside her mom and 10-year-old sister, Malia.

Can you imagine what was going through this young girl's mind, to see her father stand there and take the oath of office?

As I saw her that day, and later bouncing along a sidewalk as she walked with her father, my niece Anastacia came to mind. Their smiles and bouncy walk are so much alike, and both are the same age.

These young girls, and countless other black children, among others, will grow up in an America where what they can imagine is backed up by what they see. Despite the reality that racism hasn't left us, these children have the advantage of not being burdened with being separated by race.

So much has been written about today's generation living in a world where hip-hop music brought them all together in one room, coupled with the diverse images on television and movies. Their reality is not the reality of their parents, and we will see that play out a lot in the future.

What also is most compelling about this age of Obama is how he has been received thus far internationally. Many political experts are simply stunned that a man who has only been on the national stage for five years would have so much good will across the pond.

Of course, a lot of that has to do with the fact that President George W. Bush and his team were seen as running roughshod over their international partners, praising them when they needed something, and savaging them when they disagreed with the U.S. position.

Yet what we also can't ignore is that Obama's skin tone also plays a central role. Americans may be shocked to find out that people of color make up two-thirds of the world population.

They know all too well about America's pathetic and violent history of enslaving and later oppressing African-Americans, and it was always seen as ridiculous for U.S. officials to condemn human rights abuses abroad while racial and other forms of discrimination existed in their own backyard.

Obama's election sends a powerful signal to the world that Americans are backing up their rhetoric and ideals with action, and Obama serves as that powerful symbol.

Barack Hussein Obama now has the opportunity to show those who voted for him -- and those who didn't -- that the change he often spoke about can come to pass.

If he is able to fulfill many of the promises he made during the campaign, he will go down as one of America's most successful presidents, looked at fondly by the American people.

And if he does, maybe we'll end up having the same smile he received courtesy of Sasha.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.

All About Barack ObamaHuman Rights PolicyForeign Policy

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