Response to the election of Barack Obama: Commentary by Mike Green
Eyes filled with tears. Arms clasped around fellow citizens. Then a crescendo of praise rose up from nations around the globe in a standing ovation like none other the world has seen for a political leader. It was the world that held its breath in hope that America would usher in a significant change in leadership. U.S. citizens were equally hopeful as we voted in Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.
Climbing the mountain
For Obama, the climb up the mountain to this monumental moment in history was torturous. He faced gale-force winds that whipped up a frenzy of fear across the country.
Some believed Obama would send America headlong into socialism. Those detractors may have missed the recent historical economic collapse, government bailouts of wealthy Wall Street companies and fear-based begging by a lame duck president who pleaded with Americans to mortgage our grandchildren's future to finance his $700 billion socialistic boondoggle. Certainly, Americans weren't well-informed about the Bush administration's multi-year battle against all 50 states to maintain the practice of predatory lending, which led directly to the collapse of major financial institutions. It is folly for us to fear facing a mythical monster when we live daily with a real one.
Obama ignored the scare tactics, displaying courage and composure while offering clarity of his vision. Still the mountain had more menacing hazards.
Winds howled that America's security would be at risk because Obama would endeavor to do something that was unthinkable — talk to our enemies. Obama's desire to discuss differences demonstrated weakness, echoed the detractors. Previous presidents had apparently used more preferred methods: FDR befriended Stalin, who murdered millions of his own citizens; Eisenhower befriended the son of Hitler's ally and overthrew a democratic Muslim government to hand him a dictatorship; Reagan-Bush gave chemical weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein and assisted him in an invasion of a neighboring country; President Bush (41) then expanded Saddam's credit to $5 billion with a major Wall Street bank.
Obama's willingness to simply talk to world leaders is a welcome change. But the mountain wasn't finished with its treacherous political dangers.
They called him "Hussein." It is his middle name, of course — and Obama understood the implications made by political opponents who were busy setting traps on the mountain. "Hussein" was a rallying cry that appealed to America's fear of Islamic radicals — an ever-growing panic hyped by the current presidential administration.
Obama reassured us all that America was comprised of a broad spectrum of ethnicities — children whose names reminded us that we are, after all, a melting pot of peoples all unified under citizenship as Americans. Our names do not disqualify us from leadership, nor do our religious beliefs.
I have a few things in common with Barack Obama aside from our shared skin color and belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior of the world, not just America.
Like Obama, I am a child of the '60s. I was raised with four siblings by a hard-working mother (whose husband left her to care for us by herself). My mother would remind me often that I had to work harder, be stronger and smarter ... just to stay even with my white counterparts. She was preparing me for inevitable experiences through which I would need to persevere. I was extremely close to my grandmother, who played an instrumental role in my life and taught me to ask critical questions. I have mixed blood in me. My great-grandmother is Irish on my dad's side. My mother's side is Creole, which means I'm a product of my slave ancestors in the Louisiana south who were mixed with French and others, often through no desire of their own. And though I did not graduate from Obama's alma mater, I an honored to be an alumnus of the prestigious Maynard Media Institute at Harvard.
Although Obama and I differ on political ideals, we both believe in healthy discussions and debates on all issues. We both agree that honesty and integrity are intrinsic characteristics of good leaders. We also share a cynical view of government precisely due to the secrecy, deceit and corruption that defines much of our current government.
In Obama, I see the embodiment of the Civil Rights Movement. In him I see a coalition of blacks and whites who supported a consortium of major groups responsible for drawing the nation's attention to inequities and injustice — and helped spotlight a preacher on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963. In Obama's message, I hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
"Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
"We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."
Obama personifies the dream of Dr. King. Many have come before him and helped to forge a path. And in Obama, I see a man who reaches out to bridge divides both here and abroad. I see a man who is a product of America's struggles and a graduate of her prestige. I see a man who speaks with knowledge, conviction and integrity. I see a brother who is slow to anger, courageous in the face of fear and a tenacious climber.
But Obama hasn't yet reached the mountaintop. He can see it. But, there's still more work to be done before the celebrations can truly begin. As we bask in this seminal moment in American history, our hope is greater than it has ever been, buttressed by the hope of billions of citizens around the planet. President-elect is an incredible title that no one dreamed would be attainable by a non-white American citizen just 45 years from the time Dr. King gave us a new measuring stick: the content of our character.
I am proud of Obama. I am equally proud of the collective brotherhood and sisterhood I see around me in faces of all colors.
"Change" is the rallying cry emanating from the masses. Today, that plea is being answered by Barack Obama.
But Obama can't do it alone. America's change must come from us all. We each must be willing to do the intense work of living out the lives we profess in our faith. We must also consider our role in the world. Are we a caustic cowboy country willing to ignore the sentiment of a community of nations while we bombard targeted areas with our fear-based hostilities, or are we, perhaps, more a country comprised primarily of compassionate Christians — quick to listen, forgive, tolerate and love our neighbors wherever they may live?
However we see ourselves, one thing is certain in electing Obama to lead us — we are no longer the nation the world watched through the windows of the Bush White House.
"Change" was the same rallying cry of the Founding Fathers of this country, who understood better than anyone how corrupt and tyrannical our government could become. They provided power to we, the people, to change it — contrary to those who recommend we just find another place to live.
Still, my cynical view of our government gives me pause to wait for the official title of "President of the United States" to be bestowed upon Barack Obama, along with a peaceful turnover of power. I'll truly celebrate when the inaugural balls commence.