President says film reminded him of the struggle for equality for generations of African Americans...
Washington, DC - President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he teared up while watching "Lee Daniels' The Butler," the recently released movie about a black man who worked in the White House through multiple presidential administrations. Starring Forest Whitaker as the title character, the movie is a fictional story based on the experiences of a real member of the Residence staff.
"I teared up just thinking about not just the butlers who have worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people who were talented and skilled, but because of Jim Crow, because of discrimination, there was only so far they could go," President Obama said during a radio interview that aired Tuesday.
"And yet, with dignity and tenacity, they got up and worked every single day, and put up with a whole lot of mess because they hoped for something better for their kids."
The President made his comments to radio host Tom Joyner and co-host Sybil Wilkes of the "Tom Joyner Morning Show." The
White House has had many African American employees who worked for
decades as part of the Residence staff, including butlers. But the
first black Director of the Executive Residence and White House Chief
Usher, Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon, was not appointed until
March of 2007. When he left his post in 2011, President Obama replaced
him with the first woman to ever hold the post, Angella Reid, who is also African American.
The movie has been number one at the box office since opening two weeks ago, and President Obama said one of his favorite parts were jokes made by the character played by Cuba Gooding Jr., who visited the White House last year when the President screened his movie "Red Tails" about the Tuskegee Airmen.
He said he also enjoyed seeing Oprah Winfrey's performance as the wife of the title character.
"My girl, she can act," President Obama said. "She’s just a wonderful actress. So I’m glad they did it."
Film director Lee Daniels made headlines last week when he said that that some Americans are showing their true racist colors now that a black man is president. Daniels made the comment during an appearance on CNN’s "Piers Morgan Live" after host Piers Morgan asked if the nation has become more or less racist since Mr. Obama was elected.
"That’s a powerful question," Daniels said. “I think that people are angry that he’s president and I think that they are showing their true colors and I think that when Danny Strong wrote those words, 'any black man could be killed by any white man and get away with it,’ Trayvon Martin had not happened. I end the movie with hope. He’s walking down and Obama’s giving that famous speech and then I come out of my edit room and Trayvon Martin has happened."
Rock star and actor Lenny Kravitz, who co-stars in the film as another White House butler, joined Daniels on the program and he disagreed, saying "things are getting better with each generation."
*Photo by Pete Souza/White House