Political News

Fayetteville sergeant plays Obama at inaugural test run

Posted January 11, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Derrick Brooks puts his left hand on the book and raises his right, ready to take the oath of office. Dozens of cameras capture this moment in history, even though Brooks is wearing a name card reading "Pres.-elect Obama."

He's a slender, 6 foot 2 inches tall. He was born to a mixed-race couple. He has a daughter named Maliyah.

All those descriptions apply to Barack Obama, but Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks, 26, grew up in Fayetteville and Robeson County. In November 2007, though, he was stationed at Fort Meade, Md., as part of the Armed Forces Inauguration Committee.

"Before Barack Obama was even elected, they had been teasing him (Brooks) about looking like Barack Obama," said Brooks' mother, Donna, who lives in St. Pauls.

Looks get N.C. sergeant to inaugural dress rehearsal Looks get N.C. sergeant to inaugural dress rehearsal

Organizers noticed and picked Brooks to stand-in for the president-elect during a dress rehearsal Sunday.

"It felt great to be famous for one day," Brooks said.

Brooks resembles Obama in height, weight and skin color. But he's not an exact match.

"They look the same, except my dad has got smaller ears," 6-year-old Maliyah said. Obama noticed that, too, when they met last Thursday, Brooks said, and talked about playing basketball.

"(Obama) said Derrick was more handsome, because his ears weren't as big, so Derrick was pulling his out, so he could be a little bit like Barack Obama," Donna Brooks said.

But the president-elect has a half-inch on Brooks. And when asked who she thought was more handsome, Maliyah said, "Barack Obama."

On Sunday, other military personnel played Obama's wife, Michelle, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and others expected on the inaugural stage. Even a faux President George W. Bush showed up.

As the sky over the Capitol grew light, cannons boomed, military bands played marching music, and stand-ins took their places. Brooks and Michelle Obama's stand-in processed to applause from onlookers.

"They said people were asking him for autographs," Donna Brooks said.

Brooks stood stock still as several handlers moved the man facing him, a stand-in for Chief Justice John Roberts, to the right – then left, then right again, before marking the spot with brightly colored tape. Small shifts and fixes were all part of a long day.

For an inauguration speech, Brooks uttered six words: "'My fellow Americans, God bless America,'" his mother said.

"They all applauded for him like they would do for the inauguration," Donna Brooks said.

But Brooks, who attended Westover High School in Fayetteville and graduated from St. Pauls in 2001, won't be in D.C. during the inauguration. Despite his role in the rehearsal, he wasn't able to get tickets for himself or his family, so they will be watching it all on TV.

It'll be some welcome time with his daughter for the single dad, who had to entrust Maliyah to her grandmother's care while he worked long hours preparing for the event.

Wearing a grin even wider than Obama's, Brooks told reporters he was honored to participate in the dry run.

"I know it's a change in history," he said, "and it's a historical moment that's only going to happen one time."


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  • maddiesmom972 Jan 13, 2009

    he resembles him how...he's black?

  • protestthis Jan 12, 2009

    what do you mean "give us a real news story"?
    If they didn't publish this - you wouldn't have anything to complain or whine about.
    Personally I thank WRAL for reporting these kinds of things so that some of you folks have something to comment (usually rudely) about.

  • Proloqour622 Jan 12, 2009

    "Considering the troops overwhelmingly supported/voted for McCain" - Please site your source for this claim.

    "The only history being made is the amount of people who voted on someone based just on skin color." - Please site yoru source for this claim.

    Its funny how claims such as these are spouted by people when the person they chose looses. I do not doubt that many of those serving or nation voted for John McCain and many people voted for Obama due to color however I do not think it is a great a portion as many make out.

    How about the argument that many voted against him because his race? It is the same premise.

    So many people in American society feel better when they can blame something as historic as this election on race. If it provides you the ability to sleep at night, go right ahead and continue but please quit spewing stupidity just to satisfy your own ego.

    I am willing to give Obama a chance. If he fails then I will not vote for him again.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Jan 12, 2009


  • talkabout Jan 12, 2009

    Well the day the president elect gets sworn into office is JUST another day for all the hard working Ameicans out there. Nothing very historical about putting another crook and politician into office..it will be business as usual. I told my employees that if they ask off ofr work that day theymight as well clean out their lockers...its nothing special people....really. He's a human like the rest of us...sheesh!

  • ralkopten96 Jan 12, 2009

    I don't know why this is news. Who cares if he looks like the president elect? I didn't vote for the man, and am waiting to see how he runs the country before I start to pass jusdgement on how great he is. Come on media give us a real news story.

  • west3205 Jan 12, 2009

    I don't think it was the color of his skin that got him elected. It was the color of his party. The media preached for two plus year to get rid of the Republicans. They didn't care if a monkey was in office they just wanted the Republicans out!!!!!

  • Milkman Jan 12, 2009

    With all the crazy people out there, I'm sure he'll also make history by being the first President to wear body armor under his suit.

    Sad I know... And I didn't vote for him.

  • Worland Jan 12, 2009

    Considering the troops overwhelmingly supported/voted for McCain, I think our sergeant will be the subject of some jokes for many years to come.

  • My_Opinion Jan 12, 2009

    Iworkforaliving, the most significant thing about this election was that people made an informed decision, instead of being manipulated by fear. Sadly, some people will continue to insist that our next president was elected because of the color of his skin.