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A collection of firsts and other unique happenings

With the first African-American President's recent address to the NAACP during its 100-year convention, this seems an appropriate time to celebrate milestones of "firsts."

As Pres. Barack Obama told the crowd at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he was the beneficiary of those who came before him: W.E.B. DuBois to Thurgood Marshall to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Emmett Till.

They struggled so that others, such as himself, could thrive. And, yes, there is much more to be accomplished in the black community, as Obama pointed out.

But this month is shaping up for notable firsts. There is, for instance, the confirmation process for the Supreme Court's first Latina judge, Sonia Sotomayor. And there were these:

Below the article in The Buffalo News on Obama's speech to the NAACP is an article noting an all-female Marine Corps crew taking the president to Andrews Air Force Base. Maj. Jennifer Grieves' last day in the Marine One rotation, as the first female pilot of Marine One was marked with another first -- the presidential helicopter was flown by an all-female three-person crew.

On the opposite page, another first -- 17-year-old Zac Sunderland's first solo circumnavigation of the globe, making the Californian the youngest person to sail around the world alone, leaving Marina del Rey on June 14, 2008, at age 16 and growing a year older and a year wiser. Sunderland spoke of his encounters with stark poverty: "In other countries, 13 people are living in a dirt hut and when you meet them, they're the most kindest, generous people."

And then there's 15-year-old Kimberly Anyadike of Los Angeles who recently became the youngest African-American female to complete a solo flight across the United States, navigating a single-engine Cessna with an adult safety pilot, 87-year-old Levi Thornhill, who served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

Said Anyadike:  “I wanted to inspire other kids to really believe in themselves.” And she wanted to honor the Tuskegee Airmen -- the U.S. Army Air Corps’ all-black combat unit that served during World War II. She did both with honor.

"Firsts" and "youngests" can sometimes seem overwrought, but the importance of blazing a path for others can never be overstated.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer


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