Obama's rise to US presidency

Category: Commentary
Published on Sunday, 01 February 2009 00:00
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(Alberta, Canada) - “Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?” asked the then little known state senator from Illinois, President Barack Obama, in his famous speech that catapulted him into the American national spotlight.

“I'm not talking about blind optimism here -- the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial,” Obama told a jubilant audience at the 2004 democratic convention.

“It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope.”

Many people now, me included, consider Obama’s rise to the US presidency not only as a triumph of hope over the politics of cynicism but also as a realization of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream that one day individuals would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

But have you ever thought that one day America would live to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? I consider myself an optimist, a believer of King’s words not only in America but everywhere in the globe, including in the Sudan. Indeed, those who believe in human potential to perfect things believe King’s words would one day be realized in America and also among all nations of the world. However, for the cynics – the ones who surrender hopes for better human society to the forces of tyranny – it was not something America could ever do.

In Obama’s case, you would even look like a fool in the eyes of cynics if you were a faint hearted optimist because Obama was an obscure candidate unlike his main rivals who had been well established in American political system. His exotic name was an added disadvantage for the cynics to dismiss his message, let alone his much pronounced inexperience and whether Americans were ready for an African American president.

Nevertheless, humanity is progressing in the unyielding journey to maturity, and American people seem to have accepted the lead to the promise land of maturity where bigotry, racial, religious and ethnic prejudices would be the things of the past. Americans trusted their guts and instincts to take the message of hope over fear of the unknown, and have given a resounding answer to the cynics. And President Obama expressed that answer very well in his victory speech.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama told a joyful audience at the night of his victory, adding that “It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

Individuals, regardless of race, have had Obama’s ability and desire to create a better world, but attempts to do that have been bogged down by the notion that we can’t do anything we aspire to achieve, as Obama alluded to in his victory speech.

So, don’t you still believe that we can create a better world where individuals are judged based on their ability to do things not because they belong to a particular race or a particular ethnic group? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you still believe that humans of all races have the ingenuity to create a better world for all if given an opportunity? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you still believe that one day your enemy will not be a fellow human being but dangers like climate change, poverty and disease and that we, as humans, will one day triumph over them? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you still believe that even in Sudan where democracy and rule of law have been killed and buried by the military juntas that we can create a better Sudanese society, whether as separate North and South or United Sudan? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you still believe that voting for independence of South Sudan is not a solution if we are not united as Southerners in building a prosperous nation for ourselves and future generations? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you believe that in South Sudan, your real enemy is not your fellow human-being but poverty, diseases, ignorance and natural disasters and that if we are united we will one day defeat them? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

I can go on and on. But get one thing. Obama’s rise to the US presidency proves to us that we don’t need someone we can relate to as a means to achieve better things for ourselves but someone who can inspire the best in us like Obama said,“we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.” Those who voted for Obama might have done so because he was born to a man who looked like them or to a woman who looked like them. But we should know that his message, which has inspired hope in people across the globe instead of cynicism and fear, made him who he has become. Now the world is proud to have a leader from the world most powerful nation, who believes in the essence of the unity of humanity to solve the dangers of the 21st century of poverty, diseases and climate change.

With two wars and worse economic crisis since great depression, America surely does not need cynicism but the “hope of a skinny kid with a funny name, hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope.”

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