March 23, 2008

The Measure Of Leadership and The American Experiment

What a week. I find myself trying to organize the scrambled thoughts of Jeremiah Wright, passport gate, Obama’s speech on “racial tensions”, and Hillary calling out of Barack Obama on the Michigan and Florida primaries. There was John McCain confusing Al Qaeda with Shia, Bill Clinton saying that John McCain and Hillary are the two candidates who love America, and Bill Richardson’s endorsement. It was a very stimulating week.

On every news channel, every program, every reporter was questioning why Obama was a part of this church or had anything to do with Rev. Wright. Obama went on the talk programs; he offered an explanation and apology. I did not have confidence in Obama’s first statement, I felt they gave new fodder to the opposition but I understand why Obama felt the need to say something, the media hyped the country to new heights of hysteria (which resembled the days leading up to the Iraqi war). Obama’s comments on that evening was an attempt to quell the anxieties felt by the public for various reasons and blunt the media barrage making the sale on the idea that Obama was going to be a “black radical”. I was looking for a courageous person to step forward take control of the conversation and offer direction to the nation. Someone had to move the country beyond the clichés and stereotypes, and speak honestly to the American people. We needed a leader.

On Tuesday a Leader came forward. Leadership gave a speech in the City of Brotherly Love. In a classy and historic fashion Barack Obama addressed the differences in our cultural politics. Gripes that inhibited our ability to genuinely discuss social and economic issues, creating a situation where election after election Americans routinely vote against their interest and send the same politicians to Washington who has been bought off by the corporations and interest groups.

True leadership is facing tough critique and learning from it, it is standing out and standing up when it would be much easier just to go along. It is speaking truth, when truth could be dangerous. We know great leaders and something they share is opposing establishment when no one else dared. Any candidate could have come forward and show leadership. John could have seized the moment and attempt to bring the nation together and refocus on subjects of common interests. Hillary Clinton could have come forward and commanded this subject, spoke to the color divide and try to unite. That would have surely gained her points with the African American Community but also she would look like a leader. Any one of the candidates could have made this moment their moment and bring the country together moving us away from the hysterics of the main stream media. The only person who chose to step forward was Barack Obama. Alone, he faced the bright lights in a city where the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence sealing in it many freedoms being eroded by the Bush Administration, in a state he is predicted to lose.

The speech, I think did what it was designed to do, examine the subject of race and start an honest dialogue. The speech made me revisit a question I ponder from time to time, this description of “race”. Should we label ourselves in terms of “race”? Race to me implies competition and unless we believe that we are in competition with the other color groups, then “race” seems contrary to American ideals. If we believe we are different races we will never be able to solve the common issues. By defining ourselves as “races” don’t we concede that one “race” should seek dominance, wouldn’t natural law come into play and one “race” has no choice but to subjugate the other for its own survival? Aren’t we one race?

By saying that we are of different “races” to me is like saying there are drastic differences between us, as if each color group offers a contrast as stark as between the Bull and the Feline. They share many things (two eyes, tail, etc) but those are two groups that can never really come together, is the difference between us that striking? To say we are different races for me plays into the color divide. It dictates that power should be responsive to skin color, implying we are fundamentally different. I don’t think we are. We are one race. Why should people continue the entangled complicated dance of division by “race” never coming close enough to touch the real problems that permeate American Society?

Obama had the courage to speak to the American people on the longest standing and most controversial issue in their history. He did it with great insight and wisdom, speaking for all Americans, exhibiting understanding of the sensitivity of the subject matter. He seemed sincere, authentic and knowledgeable. Obama reiterated that we needed to bring the public back in public service by holding our elected officials accountable and not be distracted by the petty arguments of the interest groups and the media.

I feel like I don’t have to force myself to support Obama as I have had to do in previous elections. With Obama I feel the public is getting a real advocate for the people and not a puppet for the lobbyists. There is no way of knowing for certain what an Obama presidency will be like, but I am convinced he can handle not only any crisis that may come about during his presidency, but the everyday “crisis” that faces the average Americans: Healthcare, childcare, employment, fair wages and working conditions, affordable housing, decent schools, safe and clean streets, affordable consumer market.

Obama has run a superb and consistent campaign, from the logo to the website, the discipline, fundraising, organization, and strategy. He has carried the same message to every state, the same message when he was high in the polls and when he was low in the polls. It is the same message of unity, justice, and opportunity for all. A message of optimism and hope while not shying away from the reality that America has a diverse consciousness.

States that did not have significance in previous primaries are now having their voices and votes count because of this candidacy. Obama didn’t just take advantage of the “black vote” as many politicians have in the past, nor did he disregard the so called “blue collar-rural” voter because the media and the opposition infer that segment of the voting public too ignorant and prejudice to vote for Obama. He didn’t leave out the Latino voter because they did not vote for him, nor did he ignore the female vote because his opponent may have an inherent advantage with that voting block. Obama is speaking to all people and for all Americans, showing we are all part of the American story. Also important is Obama showed enlightened vision; a blueprint for healing and moving forward, out of the darkness of the Bush Administration and the politics of ethnic and gender division, fear, and corruption. Barack showed that he can be and will be a president for all the peoples of America, elevating both our standards and our standing in the world. The events of the past weeks confirm that Barack Obama has the experience and judgment to be the next President. In this great experiment, let this man lead.

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