Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Inspiration.

Barak Obama gave a speech today on race relations in America. The transcript is here, or there's embedded video if you'd prefer to hear him deliver the speech. A few things strike me about this speech. First, without discounting the existence of racism in present-day America, he's more concerned with how far we've come and where he firmly believes we're headed. He acknowledges white middle-class resentment to affirmative action at the same time he acknowledges blacks and brown people and Asians who still have reason to feel marginalized.

Second, while he condemns many of the statements of his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, he refuses to "disown" him. In doing so, he reminds us all that there is much that we don't say in "polite company", but if whites thinks blacks aren't speaking bluntly when they don't think whites are in the room, we're nuts. I find this refreshingly candid and honorable in a way I almost never see in a politician.

Lastly, the Clinton campaign regularly says "speech isn't action" and other things meant to tell us that being inspirational isn't the same thing as being effective. Well, you know what? As far as I'm concerned, the last President who was truly inspirational was assassinated when I was three years old. I'd like to have an inspirational President. I think there's real value to having a President who can inspire and speak in language worth quoting.

I decided a few weeks ago that Obama was my preference, but honestly, I wasn't a very ardent supporter. As of today, I'm firmly in Obama's camp. I want him for my next President. He makes me see possibilities.

11 comments:

Jeri said...

I prefer Obama to Clinton. He seems to be running a more principled campaign, without all the shots across the bow that originate in the Clinton camp.

And, I prefer Obama to McCain - his hawkish nature and conservative views on reproductive choice & immigration scare me a bit, although I'm glad he's at least anti-torture.

I'm not entirely sure that Obama would be my favorite choice for president - although I can't name a good alternative off the top of my head - I do think he will probably get my vote over the other front runners.

That was lukewarm. ;)

Nathan said...

Jeri,

Listen to the speech and read along with the transcript. I won't go so far as to call it a Gettysburg Address, but its the words of a man I want in charge.

Words count. Especially words that don't try to tell you exactly what you want to hear.

Saqib said...

I found it to be very moving. He's got the cure for America's ailments.

He speaks of the divide between Americans based on race. I want to highlight a divide based on religion. Specifically Islam and mainstream society. This divide existed way before 9/11 or the Gulf War.

It exists due to cultural differences. I can't tell you how many times I felt out of place becasue I didn't celebrate Christmas, Easter, Halloween, St. Patricks day etc. Or how out of place I felt celebrating my own religious holidays, because none of my friends knew about them.

These differences became blatantly obvious post 9/11. "Ignorant" (that's the nicest word I can think of) members of society engaged in wanton acts of violence. Over a thousand hate crimes reported in one year. Let me tell you it's no fun being on the recieving end.

Obama shows us a way out. Enforcing civil right is the best way to ensure that these kind of things don't happen again.

I guess not getting your ass kicked is only the first step towards being accepted by a society. It'll be long time before you see a Muslim Presidential candidate. Let alone an exemplary role model to which Americans can look to. Something like what Bill Cosby did for the African-American community.

If Obama wins the nomination. I might just head over to the US embassy and cast my vote.

Janiece Murphy said...

Me, too. Hillary may be competent, but she leaves me cold.

As for McCain, I'm waiting to see who he selects as his running mate.

Nathan said...

Saqib,

At the risk of starting a totally separate conversation (and that's not my intention), while I certainly sympathize about sometimes being made to feel out of place in a "so-called" Christian society, I'd be less than honest if I didn't say that Islam needs to clean its own house a bit. There are nations living under Sharia where a woman who is raped is then sentenced to be stoned to death. I realize that this doesn't represent all of Islam, but its certainly among the most visible. Evangelical Christians claim to want to save my soul by converting me. The most vocal faction of Islam doesn't seem to care about my soul. They just want me to stop drinking, smoking and producing MTV music videos that infect their world...and they're happy to kill me if I won't obey their rules. Let me repeat, I fully realize this does not represent the whole of Islam, but its the part that makes all of the headlines. I'd be very pleased if those who reject violence became a lot noisier.

That's part of what impressed me so much with Obama's speech yesterday. He confronted a divisive issue head-on. He talked about it honestly...in a way that didn't ignore the existing anger, but also spoke to why that anger isn't necessarily productive. He also had the balls to say that he didn't agree with some of Rev. Wright's statements, but he wasn't going to walk away from someone who has been important in his life. I see that as an utterly unique and honorable response that I can't recall having seen in American politics anytime recently. (The last example I could quote you would be from Harry Truman.)

I wouldn't go so far as to say that this speech wasn't a case of Obama reacting to outside events, but he used the situation to set his own agenda. I think thats impressive as hell. I'm pretty happy that for the first time in my adult life, there's a candidate I can enthusiastically vote for. I couldn't say that about John Kerry, or Al Gore, or Bill Clinton or any of the others dating back to 1978. This makes me happy.

Saqib said...

"I'd be very pleased if those who reject violence became a lot noisier."

This is where the issue of "The Silent Majority" comes into play. This majority is made up of moderate Muslims who only want to live peacefully and work to build better futures for themselves and their children.

They exist in all Muslim countries and in countries to which they have immigrated to. Right now they're in survival mode and only wish to get through another day. Doing away with misconceptions regarding Islam and Muslims or even countering radical elements is not a top priority.

Hmmm...Better keep this on topic...Go Obama?!

Jim Wright said...

Nathan, yes. Words are actions, which is why we remember and revere those who used them well, Jefferson, Roosevelt (Teddy), Lincoln, ML King and JFK to name a few. It's that ability to inspire that changes our world for the better, and it's long past time that America had another truly inspirational leader. I think Obama has that ability - and Clinton doesn't and she knowns it. Same with McCain.

Obama's speech says a tremendous amount about his character. He confronted the issues dead on, no dodging, no apologies. There's problems and we're going to fix them, we can fix them, we're not perfect but we're getting better. And I was impressed, very impressed, with how he addressed Rev. Wright's comments. He disagreed with the method and manner, but not the message, and he stayed loyal to his old friend. Loyalty means a great deal to me. I think he has the ability to build bridges, and that's a true skill in a president. I think he has the ability to inspire a nation, and maybe the world - and that is the mark of true greatness. Time will tell, but like you I am firmly in his camp after that speech.

Saqib, I'm damned glad you are hanging around this little circle of online friends. I find you an interesting and intelligent fellow and I have to say that I respect your opinions a great deal. As you know, I spent a great deal of time in the Middle East, among Muslims and found them to be warm and wonderful people in the majority and I don't forget those who took me into their homes. But like Nathan said, it is imperative that the silent majority speak up. For America, the bearded face of Osama Bin Ladin has become the face of Islam. It's time for Muslim's to take back their religion from the fanatics (oh, and yes I agree the same is true for Christians here in America).

Michelle K said...

I wanted to second what Jim said.

The Silent Majority exists for all groups. The vast majority of Christians aren't Jim Bakker or Oral Robertson, yet those are the individuals we hear about.

The majority of Republicans aren't like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or that other obnoxious freak. But those are the ones we heard about.

The average person isn't motivated to stand up and make themselves a target, so it ends up that the wingnuts end up being the voice or the face of the group. When instead we should be looking for calm rational moderates to be the faces of your groups. (i.e. the Dalai Lama.)

It's like the theory of airline crashes. People think airplanes are dangerous even though they're safer than cars. Why? Because a single airline crash makes worldwide news, while fatal car wrecks hardly make the news.

It's not that the media is biased in this, it's simply that the unusual and different are what stick out.

And because no one wants to hear a news story about how many planes landed safely today.

Saqib said...

*feels all bubbly inside*

@Jim: Ahlan wahsalan, Ya Habibi!

I don't mean to be a boob and I know that this isn't the place but the novel that I wrote tries to cast Islam in a different light.

You can access the webiste for the book via my blog just click the "Activate Neo Project" link. Yeah I know the site looks crappy, sue me.

Also if I were to add to my thoughts on Obama's speech. I would tell you that I like how he remains humble. He knows campaign workers don't join the team because of him but because they want to work towards social change. He simply enables them.

Jeri said...

It is true that the extremist minority eclipses the silent majority in the public eye on almost any continuum. I personally have a hard time embracing or acknowledging any part of my residual Christian faith because of my strongly negative reaction to the religious right.

Saqib, I'm glad too that you're commenting and contributing to some of these blogs! At the risk of sounding naive, I think your perspectives & information about your culture are fascinating.

Nathan, I did finally read the text of Obama's speech, although I didn't have time to listen. He's a good orator, I may go back when I do find a spare half hour. I agree, I'm very, very impressed with the man's vision, integrity, loyalty, and insightful honesty.

Steve Buchheit said...

Even as a supporter of Clinton I think Obama did an excellent job with this speech. Earlier in the campaign I had the opinion that he wouldn't be able to handle all the mud the right would throw at him (style wise, how the media would portray it, what the response from the right would be, etc) . After this speech, and the reception of the speech, I'm starting to change that opinion.