Tag Archives: obama

Exceptionalism rising #44

Watching President Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration, I am struck by the moment, by this man who is living out the dream for so many people in America and I think about who he is and what it must feel like for him. He is not a descendant of slaves, but he is making their dreams real. l5281959998_1045 He grew up in a white world, with a white single mom and grandparents in Hawaii some of the time. But still he was a black person in America, though born to become a global citizen with his African father and his Indonesian childhood. When he became a man, he was one of the best and brightest at Harvard Law and yet he chose to place himself into the world of inner city black America and to become community organizer. Then he married into a traditional black family and became a traditional dad who entered politics and rose to become the President of the United States. This is something I cannot imagine happening anywhere else in the world. Someone, some “other” rising to hold the highest office of the country, perhaps the world. What does this exceptional story say to the world? What does it say to every person in our own country?

This day, this spectacle was amazing. The world was watching. People everywhere in this country, even the Red states were watching. While the media makes so much of the black American audience and how it feels for them, I feel like this is something that makes us all feel better, changed, renewed.

What a beautiful day! The huge sea of people out in Washington awed me. 265645426 While the speech was not full of rousing Lincoln or Kennedy or FDR lines, there were many “yeah, he’s so right” moments. “…we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” “…the time has come to set aside childish things.” “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them …” The context in which this speech was made, both where we are as a country at this moment, racially, economically, spiritually, and how the world sees us after the eight years of Bush/Cheney, made this speech one for the ages as it spoke truths that need to be heard.

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land – a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.

They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control – and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort – even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends – hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.


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History in the Making

I’m watching as Obama and his entourage make their way by train from Philadelphia to Washington; he is taking the same trip that Lincoln took aboard a vintage railway car. Thousands of people line the tracks and wait excitedly at every stop. His speeches are eloquent and filled with historical references. He reminds us of the founders and their dream of perfecting our union. It is theater and it is very effective. At one stop the Mayor of Baltimore mentions that one President will be leaving and it gets an enormous cheer. I second that emotion. Then Obama comes out to thunderous applause.

It is an historic moment. Watching the people along the way, the people who are waiting in Washington, the hope on their faces and in their words makes me cry. Yes, I am getting emotional about this. And yes, I think that Obama is exceptional. You hear phrases bandied about like “paradigm shift,” “defining moment,” Obama’s heralding a new way of life for Washington, and I hope so much that Obama doesn’t become “The Man.” Is it too much to put on one man’s shoulders?

So far Obama has done something different from everyone who came before. I cannot imagine another President having dinner with all the conservative journalists who delight in maligning him, or hosting a dinner for his opponent as a part of the inaugural events. Can he keep this momentum going? Can he possibly live up to the expectations?

The mood is so hopeful. Even the Republicans are mostly hopeful, or so the polls are saying. Of course, after W, we are all expecting something better – not really that hard a job. I am looking forward to the coming days in a way I have not felt in years. Please let this spirit last. Please let his vision infect others. Please don’t let things go back to the way they were. If I were a praying sort, I would ask for a miracle. I’ll cross my fingers.

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And the hate goes on

The conservatives are wasting no time gearing up for a new president. They have not skipped even half a beat transforming their attacks on the Democratic Party’s nominee into invectives for the new President-elect. If you cannot stop him from becoming president, then you must stop him from being effective before he even gets sworn in.
They are lining up behind a variety of twisted logic about Obama’s “connections” to “Chicago-style politician” Rod ‘I Will Fight’ Blagojevich. The argument is that if Obama talked to him, then he is guilty of something nefarious. He must have been in cahoots with the sleazebag governor, they contend. Of course, the fact that the seat being discussed is the one that Obama gave up and that he would have an opinion about who should take that seat, is beyond their point. No doubt, the Obama team talked to the Blagojevich team about the appointment. But it is just more guilt by association.

Curiously, Newt Gingrich is coming to the aid of our new President. The RNC was quick to make a video about the supposed connection of Obama with the crimes Blagojevich is being accused of and Newt came out against it.

I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.

But this is a great story. Did he really try to sell a senate seat? Trade up for himself and his wife? Is there something about being in Chicago that makes politicians think they can get away with gross ethical transgressions? On the face of it, The Blago is a fascinating animal. Born of immigrants from Serbia and Bosnia, he grew up poor and scrappy, worked his way up with a couple of Golden Gloves bouts to his name, then went to law school, married the daughter of a well connected Chicago politician and eased his way to the Governorship. So far, a real American success story. blago2But as with all such stories, it must end tragically. While his “I will fight, I will fight, I will fight” speech will be remembered and replayed repeatedly as he falls from grace, his recital of Kipling was intensely uncomfortable because it reminded me of the kid in school whose sense of self depended entirely on showing the class that he could memorize better than all the other kids, and that he didn’t really hear the words he was saying at all. All in all it feels like a Lewis Sinclair story.

A Chicago Magazine article in February 2008 reported that people have been well aware of the Governor’s problems for a long time. His approval rating long before this latest allegation came out was below even George Bush’s! People were calling him insane.

Privately, a few people who know the governor describe him as a “sociopath,” and they insist they’re not using hyperbole.

Some people think that the governor’s behavior has turned more erratic in the past few years. One reason, they suspect, could be Barack Obama’s extraordinary rise. “Obama’s ascendancy had a significant impact on this guy,” says a Democratic lawmaker from Chicago. “Here’s a lifelong plan that’s been unfolding better than anyone could ever script—an unremarkable state’s attorney becomes an unremarkable state representative, becomes an unremarkable congressman, becomes an unlikely governor. My God, everything’s falling into place! All of a sudden the proverbial skinny guy with the funny name starts making some headway, decides to run for U.S. senator, wins the primary, then gets tapped to do the keynote speech [at the Democratic National Convention]. Knocks the fucking thing out of the park. So now when political people coast to coast talk about Illinois, they talk about Barack Obama. They don’t give a fuck about Rod Blagojevich.”

Poor sod, even his “I have done nothing wrong” spiel turns out to be one of his stock speeches. Corruption charges have been swirling around him for most of his tenure as Governor. And he has taken the same tact every time.

Given that the governor has spent much of his time in office fending off accusations of ethical irregularities within his administration, many of his former backers have distanced themselves from him. For example, Blagojevich was left off the speaker’s platform during Senator Barack Obama’s presidential announcement last February. “He’s Kryptonite,” says state representative Jack Franks, a Democrat from Woodstock, who is one of Blagojevich’s biggest critics. “Nobody wants to get near this guy.”

It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I’m staying tuned.

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Hillary Clinton Secretary of Ulterior Motives

Since the news came through that Hillary Clinton might be under consideration for the Obama administration’s secretary of state appointment, the news pundits have had a field day coming up with their reasons behind the choice. Most want to find ulterior motives for it. “He wants her out of the Senate so she won’t be able to give him problems with health care.” “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” “He wants to keep her from running in 2012.”


But what if he just thinks that she is the best person for the post? What if Obama is simply able to put the primaries behind him and move forward with the job we gave him? I have to say that Hillary in that post didn’t seem like the most obvious to me when I first heard it. What about Sec. of Health and Human Services? What is the experience she brings to the table? But then Kissinger came out and said:

“I believe it would be an outstanding appointment. If it is true, it shows a number of things, including great courage on the part of the President-Elect. To appoint a very strong personality into a prominent cabinet position requires a great deal of courage.”

She knows a wide variety of world leaders and it is clear that the world would be happy with her in the role. I think that Obama would want a strong independent thinker in the role, not someone who would be ruled by the vice president’s office, remember Condi. That Hillary and Obama have not agreed on every policy is not a negative. He is notable for wanting a variety of opinions around him. His mind thrives on synthesizing ideas, taking the best from may voices. Strong people like Hillary would be sure to give that intellect a good work out.

This is the best Hillary could hope for in my opinion, because despite being one of her early supporters, I know that there is still so much hatred of her here in America from both the left and the right, women and men, black and white. Fox News was, as expected, bashing her from the moment she took the stage. And NY Times Columnist Maureen Dowd never missed an opportunity to bash “The Clintons” during the whole cycle. I don’t think Hillary could win the American presidency, not because of the supposed sexism that derailed her; I think that there are people of every persuasion who hated her when she was in the White House with Bill for whatever reason, who would never have voted for her for president, and who will continue to distrust her and Bill until the end of time. Fortunately, if she becomes Secretary of State, those people are all in the US and her job will be in the world at large where they like her and respect her husband. So it is in the end the best of both worlds for her — huge responsibility and respect. And good for all of us, too.

The fly in the ointment may be Bill. Will his many international business and philanthropic dealings become a conflict of interest if Hillary takes the office? If he makes a speech that voices an opinion that runs counter to the new administration’s policy, is the family association enough to say that Hillary must address it. Putting a muzzle on Bill and expecting him to pull back on his agenda might be the only thing to derail this appointment.

This is the first time in history this has come up and I find it fascinating. Talk about sexism or gender politics! This could easily become the most interesting he said/she said ever.

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Obama — Lucky or not

chinese_numberI was thinking today about the numerology of Obama being the 44th president. Now, I am not really into this kind of thing, but I know from living in China that 4 is the most unlucky number. In Chinese, the word for four and the word for death sound the same though the characters are entirely different. On the other hand if you are into western numerology, you add the numbers together and they are eight which is a very lucky number. I’m just sayin’.

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Right Wing Army

One of the scarier things that has happened since the election was finalized is the enormous increase in gun sales. guns0081Yes, it is good for the economy, but really! People are so afraid that Obama is going to take away their guns that they have deluged the gun shops and gun shows and are arming themselves to the teeth. Apparently, sales of assault weapons are through the roof. Obama is definitely against people owning these weapons, as am I. Why do ordinary citizens have the right to own these guns? Or semi-automatics? Does anyone have a real need for one either to hunt or for personal safety?


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I live in a Blue State!

North Carolina has gone for Obama today. I worked hard for that and even though he already won the Presidency, it makes me feel even better. Thank You North Carolinians!


[NYTimes.com] Mr. Obama’s slight lead of about .2 percentage points over Senator John McCain has expanded over the last several hours to .4 percent, prompting several news organizations to declare him the winner.

The total shows 49.9 percent for Mr. Obama to 49.5 percent for Mr. McCain.

Mr. Obama’s win here caps an extraordinary campaign in the state, which has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1976.

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