WASHINGTON - Long before Barack Obama, there was Lawrence Douglas Wilder, the grandson of slaves, who became the first African-American elected governor in the United States. Wilder was sworn in as governor of Virginia in 1990 in a ceremony that changed the political face of the country.
As governor, Wilder successfully sponsored Virginia's first drug paraphernalia law and the compulsory school attendance law.
He also sponsored legislation that eventually led to establishing a state holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Now, Virginia's first black governor is painting a portrait of the changing face of America in an autobiography, 'Son of Virginia.'
"I think it's continuing to the extent of not resting on laurels, yet believing that we have so much more to do," the former governor said when asked about his legacy. "It did help open doors for others, particularly the presidency with Barack Obama, but we can't rest on that."
"The American political system is rather dysfunctional today, and one of the things I hope to bring from the book to show that you've got to be involved," when asked about what he hopes his book does for other. "I never wanted to be involved in politics. I never wanted to go around smiling and asking for votes and begging for money, and yet I found out that I couldn't sit on the side lines and talk about it."
Wilder said his decision to enter politics came after he returned to practicing law. "Rather than to sit on the side line and to wonder and to worry about the fair slice of that pie that should come to the people that I felt concerned about - why not put my hand on the knife that cuts that pie?" he said.
While teaching government at Virginia Commonwealth University, Wilder says he encourages students to get involved in politics. "I teach them also that my one word definition of politics is money. You name any subject that is discussed today relative to program or policy and it involves money."
"Look at the people who are dropping out because they can't raise money," he said. "Look at those who are involved because they do have money. And so if you're going to live in this country, you've got to be a part of that political decision-making process."
Wilder, whose grandparents were slaves, says that the history of this nation needs to again become part of the discussion while trying to move forward. "How we got here, what did we do once we got here? Who built the country? Who was a part of the fabric of making it so that there could be opportunities for others? No one wants to discuss it," he said.
His new project, 'Son of Virginia ,' is a book that lets Americans know that Virginia could produce and still can produce. "My mother told me, you can whatever you choose to be but keep your head in some books." Wilder is also constructively critical of the Obama administration and says he would have liked to have seen an African-American appointed to the United States Supreme Court.
Visit this link for more on Governor Wilder and his new book, 'Son of Virginia': http://wildervisions.com/