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December 22, 2008 3:34 am

Obama honors pledge ¬ó cabinet represents diversity, intellect

Written by Tribune Staff

As President-elect Barack Obama wrapped up his nominations for cabinet positions last week — just in time to enjoy a holiday vacation — it became clear he is following through on pledges made during his candidacy to make his cabinet one of the most diverse ever.

The majority of the soon-to-be President's appointments consist of women and ethnic minorities — in fact, white men are the minority in this cabinet. He has looked to people outside the political circles of Washington, D.C., and though he has named long-time Chicago allies to several posts, he has veered away from cronyism in favor of deciding who will best fill the positions.

Not only that, Obama has appointed two Republicans — keeping Robert Gates, the secretary of defense under the Bush administration, and naming Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois as transportation secretary — drawing comparison to Abraham Lincoln's “team of rivals” approach.

Obama is proving he will not, unlike his predecessor, surround himself with “yes” men and women, but will instead ensure a broad range of perspectives in the White House. His choices show he's not afraid of opinions and beliefs that may not mesh with his own.

Of course, people continue to grouse: Republicans call his appointments “token;” Democrats question the centrist lean; gay rights leaders want a homosexual nominee; women's groups want more women ...

It's a case of not being able to make everyone happy, all the time, but it's an admirable start.

And after the last eight years, it's a welcome change to hear ABC's political expert George Stephanopoulis say, “We have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes.”

It will be exciting to see what this diverse and bi-partisan group brings to the table.