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William sisters present contrasting views on Obama

Serena Williams says she can't help but be inspired by the impending inauguration of Barack Obama but Venus maintains a safe distance.

She may be a Jehovah’s Witness and determinedly apolitical,but Serena Williams says she can’t help but be inspired by the impending inauguration of Barack Obama.

Serena was happy to talk about the new US president following her first round win at the Australian Open on Tuesday,although big sister Venus was far more reticent. Serena said she saw some parallels between her’s and Venus’s careers and Obama’s.

“I definitely think myself and Venus have opened up a lot of doors,being the first African-Americans to do so much in tennis,” she said.

Speaking after her impressive 6-3,6-2 demolition of Meng Yuan,the nine-time Grand Slam winner added that she was taking a keen interest in events in Washington.

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While she won’t set the alarm and get up early to watch Obama’s swearing in ceremony,which will be the early hours of Wednesday morning Australian time,she said she would be recording it so she can watch it later. “This is an amazing moment for American history,” she said. “Even yesterday,(in) the United States it being Martin Luther King’s birthday.”

“To have his birthday and Obama’s presidency fall so close to each other … this morning I was watching on the TV before I went out to play,I looked at my arm and I literally had chill bumps. I’m a big fan of African-American history,learning my roots so I can be a better person.”

“You just look at all the things that we’ve come through. Now to have this opportunity in less than 24 hours is amazing.”


The two Williams sisters were brought up as Jehovah’s Witnesses,a religion which does not allow its adherents to follow secular politics or cast votes in elections.

While Serena was happy to speak about Obama,Venus was reluctant to comment following her 6-3,6-3 win over Germany’s Angelique Kerber. “I really am not political at all — I don’t take any political sides,” Venus said.

“I think it’s exciting that in America we can have a president … or that we can have diversity,” she continued when pressed on the matter. “We’ve had a long history in America of,you know,in the past racial strife. My parents grew up in the South,things like that. So it is nice to see that diversity,I guess. I think he was the best candidate,so I’m happy that the best candidate was elected,but I really am not a political expert — I know zero.”


Serena said that just because she was a Jehovah’s Witness it did not mean she hadn’t followed Obama’s political ascendancy.

“I didn’t vote (in the US election) because I am a Jehovah’s Witness — I try to stay politically neutral,don’t get involved in worldly matters,” she said.

“It’s easy for me because I was born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness. For me,because I am black,seeing that (Obama) happen,I would be blind if I didn’t take interest in it or I would be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in what was going on. Obviously I am. Obviously I was listening to a lot of points that Obama was giving for his election.”

“Some of the things that he said in order to get elected was interesting. But it (being apolitical) is not a hard position for me to take. I mean,hopefully the right thing will happen but,you know,I think it’s an important position for me to take in my faith.”

First published on: 20-01-2009 at 16:57 IST
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