Are you the president?

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My favorite “suit” is a pair of rumpled up bib overalls. The $199.00, “buy one, get one free” corporate “suits” I’ve accumulated over the years were dropped off in Goodwill boxes, or retired into the deepest recesses of my closet to be retrieved only on rare occasions, say a formal dinner or funeral.

But after reading a recent story by my fellow blogger – and “bib overall wearer” – one Mr. Bernard Strong, I thought that maybe I should retrieve a few of those old suits, get them tailored to fit my rebelliously expanding waistline for flaunting in public. The catalyst for this idea is the following story by Strong, one that unleashed a flood of “likes” and almost as many of “Amens.”

“As a banker, my uniform was the standard blue/gray suit, white shirt and tie. Boring. Occasionally I would add a little personality by sporting a colorful tie. Now management did not ‘say’ anything and the only negative on my performance evaluation was about my ‘choice of ties’. After 10 years of pressure to conform to the banking culture that stifled my free will and creativity I ‘was mad as hell and I was not going to take it anymore.’ So I left banking to pursue a real estate career. That was 31 years ago.

My motivation was to earn $100K in a calendar year without “having” to wear a suit and tie. With much hard work and prayer, I soon checked that off my list. Although I love my freedom to dress the way I prefer, I still own a suit. It hangs in my closet in an old tuxedo bag. I pull it out every once in a while.

Several years ago, I put on that corporate uniform to attend a real estate closing. I admit that my confidence went up when I entered in my power attire. A suit can present a certain image that can impact and influence people.

The closing went well. Afterwards I stopped by Panda Express to grab a bite. While in line a black lady was in front of me with her 4-5 year old son who kept staring at me. I smiled at him and returned to the menu trying to decide between Kung Pau Chicken and Mongolian Beef. Once I decided on the chicken, I looked down and noticed that the lad was still staring at me. He had a puzzled look on his face.

So again, I smiled and said “hi.” This gave him the okay to ask me something that seemed to be on his mind. His question stunned me, one that I as a child would never have asked a black man in a suit and tie; not because that would have been disrespectful, but because I was brought up in a different era, a time when most black men dressed up in dark suits were preachers, teachers, undertakers…or stretched out in a coffin in their “Sunday suits.”

His question, “Are you the president?” left me speechless. In a split second, I figured out its significance; his frame of reference was much different from my own.

So thank you President Obama for giving this child an extra choice in presumptions that I never had!take it anymore’. I left banking to pursue a real estate career 31 years ago. My motivating goal was to earn $100K in a calendar year without ‘having’ to wear a suit or tie. With much hard work and prayer, I soon checked this off the list.
Although I love my freedom of dress, I still own a suit. It hangs in my closet in an old tuxedo bag and I pull it out every once in a while. Several years ago, I put on the corporate uniform to attend a real estate closing. I must admit my confidence went up a notch when I entered the room in my power attire. Suits can present a certain image that can impact and influence people. The closing went well and after shaking hands and securing my check, I decided to stop by Panda Express to grab a bite to eat. While in line, a young black lady was standing in front of me with her 4-5-year-old son. I noticed that this child just kept staring at me. I smiled at him and looked back up at the menu trying to decide between Kung Pao Chicken or Mongolian Beef. Once I decided on Kung Pao Chicken, I looked down and the young lad was still staring. This time I looked closer and noticed that he had a puzzled look on his face. So again, I smiled and this time I said, ”Hi.” When I spoke, it served as permission for him to ask me the question that was roiling inside. His question stunned me. It was a question that, as a child, I would have never asked a black man, not even a black man in a suit and tie. When I was a child, an adult mind would not have had the substance to form this question. He simply asked me, “Are you THE President?”
Thank you, President Barack Obama, for giving this young child something I never had. Enough said.

Okay, I’m off to the tailor now. Gotta get a suit altered for one of two inevitable questions that will come my way – “Are you the president?”

Or, “Are you Denzel Washington?”


© K. Bernard Strong is a poet, writer, storyteller, spoken word artist and longtime Realtor in Atlanta Georgia. He can be reached at Bernard@TheStrongRealtyGroup.com. Terry Howard is a writer, trainer and story teller with Diversity Wealth. He is also a member of the Cross Cultural Academy, the founder of the Global Diversity Consortium, a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, New York-based Catalyst and the American Diversity Report. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com.

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