Tuesday, November 11, 2008
(Photos taken from Chicago Tribune)
I was in Dallas, TX during the fall of 2004. It was my first foreign assignment in the US. I witnessed the debates between John Kerry and incumbent President George Bush. I remember that the state of Ohio proved to be the sole battleground state and that it was a closely contested race. At the back of my memory during that campaign season was a photo of a beaming Illinois senator with his family that headlined a local newspaper. I don't remember much about that story, except that he delivered a keynote speech at a convention. That was the first time I saw and heard of a man named Barrack Obama.
Fast forward to spring of 2008. I'm back in the United States and this time with my family. We were residing at a northwestern suburb of metro Chicago. My wife and I were closely following the Democratic primaries and the heated contest between Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama. Somehow, I was cheering for Mr. Obama as he went on to win a string of states that eventually led to his being selected as the Democrat Party's presidential candidate.
Then came his acceptance speech which we watched from start to finish. To say that the guy can talk is an understatement. HE CAN HYPNOTIZE. In the 3 presidential debates, his eloquence allowed him to state his stand strongly, clearly, and almost effortlessly. It is not difficult to be charmed by this guy. He possesses youth, talent, charisma, and projected the ability of handling pressure effortlessly. He always looked cool. It looked like he was really destined to become this nation's president.
On election night, I came home from work and immediately switched on the TV. Soon, Obama carried pivotal states that were supposed to be close contests - Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia. It was turning out to be a rout. At 11pm CST, the polls closed in the West Coast and without a single ballot being counted, the networks projected BARACK OBAMA as the elected 44th president of the Unites States of America.
It was late and it was way past our boys' bedtime but I wanted them to watch his victory speech. Its not too often that one shares the same metro city as the president-elect. Thousands of people have gathered at Grant Park, a mere 30-minute drive away to celebrate his victory. Had my kids been older, we would also have trekked downtown to witness and be a part of this historical moment.
Ah, "historical". It's been 7 days since he won, and the word "historical" has been repeated a billion times to describe his victory. Amongst others, the phrase "first black president" keeps cropping up. Beyond his skin color, Obama has a very white background having been raised by a white mother and white grandparents. I don't know the statistics but he can easily be the most international president in terms of origin. Born in Hawaii, he has lived in Indonesia, and has visited relatives in Kenya as a youth.
For me, Obama is the epitome of an American dream. Born in a middle-class working family, he has told stories of how his mother studied with him at 4 in the morning just so he can get ahead in his studies. He went to top universities such as Columbia and Harvard and excelled at those schools. He was a community leader and an Illinois senator. He couldn't have accomplished much just by being normal - no sir, though he's talented, I bet that it his work ethics, self discipline and motivation that makes him who he is. On top of it all, he is married to an equally over-achieving lady, who happens to the descendant of slaves; and they have kids who aren't allowed to whine and receive paltry allowances amounting to $1/week. It's almost unreal.
Had I been allowed to vote, I wouldn't have voted for him though. I do not agree with him regarding his pro-choice stance and tax plan. I'll probably benefit from his tax plan next year but I don't think its the best for the economy. Yes, 95% of all the people would benefit, but the employers who employ the people? They're going to be hit in a manner that can substantially curtail their growth and affect their ability to employ. With regards to his pro-choice stand, I heard him explain in an interview with Pastor Rick Warren that he doesn't believe that life begins at conception. I wonder what he believes then, but for me, this is a fundamental issue that should never be negotiated.
Lastly, I've been tasked to hire employees before, and I take into consideration both experience and potential. The presidential election is like the process of hiring an employee, except that this is no ordinary job - it is the most important job in perhaps, the whole world. Despite Obama's talent and potential, it is too risky to have someone too untested to decide on options that will impact the lives of billions.
And yet, the elections are over and Barack Obama is the president-elect. My pre-election views have changed over the course of a week. I now think that though Obama may not have been the better candidate, he definitely has the potential to be the greater president. As a Christian, I am commanded by Scripture to pray for my leaders. As a resident alien here in the US, Barack Obama is my leader too, and so I shall be praying for him.