Image by Free Mass via FlickrAfter only one reading, I am amazed at the difference in this president and most others. He really gets it. He understands that the globe on which we live will not sustain institutional hatred or bigotry. The distance from the front of this boat, we are all passengers in, to the rear is too short. What effects one ultimately affects all of us. Everybody needs to be bailing or paddling. What cannot be tolerated is a few trying to disadvantage the many. There is no room for thieves, murders or bullies, except in the water.
Obama reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt when he was governor of New York. He had participated in some infighting with some party bosses. Mr. Thomas Platt in particular, was trying to obstruct a political appointment. He threatened to ruin Roosevelt if he did not acquiesce. Roosevelt held his ground and prevailed. Later when recounting the incident to a friend in a letter he wrote “I have always been fond of the West African proverb: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” It seems that President Obama has mastered speaking softly and I hope he can follow through with the big stick when it is required.
It strikes me that the President is an inherently honest man. He speaks from the heart and is not afraid to utter hard truths. Unlike most politicians, he seems to value the ability of truth to promote his agenda and beliefs. I detect no dissembling or attempts to manipulate the truth. He calls it like it is. That in and of itself is a refreshing change from the historical norm.
I am impressed that he really understands better then most the nobility of the American dream. That dream is first about liberty and equality for all. It is about a place where many can stand together to implement those ideas for all. Then secondly, it is about the opportunity to achieve the level of prosperity your effort entitles you too. Without the first part, the second part is merely a function of repression.
He also espouses something that I have always believed. Decent people all over the world want the same things for themselves and their families. They want peace and prosperity, some say as to how they are governed, health care for themselves and their children, education and the chance to improve the future and the ability to worship according to their own conscience. They abhor war and human depravity just as all right thinking people do. They would rather live in peace with their neighbors then lose everything in meaningless conflict where there are no winners.
I think he reached a good balance between the olive branch and the sword. He did not apologize for Afghanistan or our intention to protect our allies or ourselves. He called the Islamic countries to task for ignoring their duty to their own peoples prosperity. He reached out an open hand in peace and friendship and called for all to cooperate in making this a better world. It was a magnificent gesture and I believe he meant every word.
There will be many who disagree. The right wing talking heads will accuse him of pandering and socialism again. There will be conjecture as to which Washington area mosque he is sneaking out to in the middle of the night. On the other hand, there will be Islamic extremist who will say he does not mean it or as long as he supports Israel, it is meaningless. Some people are not happy unless the glass is half-empty. They would rather fight over what is left of their hate then join hands and search for more water. Those people will eventually destroy themselves or force us to do it for them. Unfortunately, they will make many others miserable in the process.
Life is often a series of self-fulfilling prophecies. We fashion our existence either purposefully or through lack of purpose. Generally, the more we do for others the more we accomplish for ourselves. The more we reach out our hands in peace, to give a hand up to those less fortunate, the better the future for us all. If we wander aimlessly without purpose, we endanger ourselves and threaten others. We come to feel entitled to those things we neglect to earn on our own. You are only entitled to freedom if you are willing to die for it. You are only entitled to food and shelter if you are willing to work for it.
Those unable to work or contribute due to physical or mental defect are the rightful responsibility of us all and we should accord them more sustenance and dignity then we do. Those unwilling to work or contribute should be thrown out of the boat and have no claim on the rest of us. The difficulty of course is in knowing the difference between the two to a moral certainty. Well, I dissemble and am getting way off track.
In closing, I am proud of this President. He strikes me as a good and moral man worthy of the great office he holds. I do not by any means think him perfect but still a much better man for the job then what we could have had. He gets it.