Ben Jaffe
Ben Jaffe was born and raised in New Orleans. He joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 1993 and assumed the chair his father Allan once had as tuba player with the band.

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REASON 60: President Obama appointed the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice in US history.

I remember the day President Obama was inaugurated. We were all at Preservation Hall for a recording session. We took a break to watch his speech. We set up a T.V. in the back office behind the Hall, probably the same television our parents watched the inauguration of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech on. The whole band crowded into what used to be our parents living room, back behind the courtyard of Preservation Hall. It reminded me of the day we watched the first Space Shuttle launch back in 3rd grade. It was important. It was communal. The last time I can remember that happening was the day the World Trade Center was attacked or Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans—a moment when the world felt connected by a life changing event.

As Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took the oath of office, Charlie Gabriel, our 80-year-old clarinetist, began to cry. I began crying. Everyone in the room began crying. None of us said a word but we knew the importance and significance of that moment. Charlie grew up in the Jim Crow south. He lived through segregation. He suffered at the hands of other people’s bigotry and hatred. His grandfather was not allowed to vote. Charlie was alive when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, he was alive to see peaceful protesters shut down the public bus systems throughout the south. He saw the fall of the Jim Crow Laws and the first Civil Rights Amendments. He saw the first Black students attend an all-White public high school. And now, beyond any of our imaginations, we were watching Barack Obama become the 44th President of the United States of America.

And it was even more powerful to see Obama follow through and enact real change. Like when he appointed Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, the first Hispanic to ever be appointed to the high court and only the third female in the court’s history. Obama’s election served as a symbol of progress for our nation, but perhaps more importantly, Obama has created tangible change while in office.

You have to wonder, with four more years, what else is possible?

Ben Jaffe
 New Orleans, Louisiana

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REASON 70:
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