Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama-nomics

This post was originally written for Risen Magazine and was posted last week on Saturday, Nov. 15th 2008. I just received an email from my contact at the magazine stating that he was asked by the Publisher to remove the article because he wants to "avoid taking positions on political issues". I was in no way trying to make a political statement, but to simply make comment on what I have observed about the character of our President-elect of the United States of America. If desired, one could interpret my positive sketch of Barack Obama as support - and a healthy dose of patriotism - for our future President. So, at the moment, here is the exclusive release of "Obama-nomics". Comments open . . .

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Things have already changed quite a lot around here. I mean the whole world seems to have been keeping an eye on the American political race for the White House. I admit, I’m not sure how much coverage was given within America to the reaction from other countries at the success of Barack Obama & co. in procuring the title of the 44th President of America . . but it was exceedingly good from where I’m standing. Whether you voted for Senator / President-elect Obama or not, you have to admit, his campaign was a very well-oiled machine. Even where my family and I live in the middle of rural Ireland was not exempt from being affected by the recent American political performances. I suppose our case is a little exceptional as out-of-the-way places go, especially since Barack’s ancestral line on his mother’s side is traced to the next town over within our parish boundary. My friend Canon Stephen Neill has been riding the wave of ‘Obama fever’ the past year and a half since he made the discovery within church records.

It seems the world was on a euphoric high last week since he was nominated for office. That is, except of course, the President-elect’s opposition. Whether a supporter or not, everyone knows by this stage that one of his more obvious qualities is his ability for clear rhetoric. I tend to believe it was all the persuasive, compelling ‘wordage’ minus the lack of sincerity or meaningful content that ‘rhetoric’ denotes. I recently heard a radio presenter here in Ireland remark that when running for office one must, ‘Campaign in poetry and govern in prose.’ While I recognise the significance of this statement, I hope a good measure of the poetry remains in play with the Obama administration. It has been that ‘poetic’ element of President-elect Obama’s public face that has endeared so many to him. It’s the poetic flare that has generated all of that hope we have heard so much about - and even experienced in some cases. It’s that poetic edge that creates new possibilities in the ‘seed beds’ of prepared souls, the possibility that boldly declares ‘Yes We Can’. While I recognise that hope is not a deep enough resource to effectively guide a country on alone, it would be despairing if it were lost.

Not to be left unnoticed, much has been said about Barack’s intellectual prowess. Again, it has primarily come from those favourably disposed to him, but others have conceded that point as well. I’ve heard comments passed to that effect often enough to make me sick of hearing it. Okay, okay - let’s give that one to the man. He’s got to be smart and very intellectual to have made it to where he is . . doesn’t he?? Doesn’t everyone occupying the position of the ‘most powerful man in the world’ have to be so? **Enter relentless jokes about the present incumbent.** I have to admit, no matter your position or views on our current President, Will Ferrell plays a mean ‘W’! Then again, I can’t help but laugh every time I get a view of the comedian’s face - Will Ferrell, that is. I do recognise an aware and seemingly knowledgeable individual in the person of Barack Obama; but is that enough to effectively govern our nation? Will a ‘heady’ Oval Office provide the type of national leadership we need in our flailing society? It will help, but alone it’s not enough.

In my eyes, one of the most necessary qualities for leadership is a deep-seated personal integrity. Integrity at its root demonstrates a cohesion of person, a trustworthiness of character and honourable behaviour - no matter if someone is watching. A person of integrity is someone who says what they mean and does what they say. Their public face accurately mirrors their private world. This is a quality that has largely been lost to our Western society. Oh, it is valued in personal interactions with others, but a person of integrity is largely seen as a bit out of touch with the rest of the world. It’s a dangerous prospect for all of us when we begin attributing to celebrities the kind of respect and admiration saints once received in days gone past, because of what those celebs possess (cash, homes, influence), as opposed to who they are. More on that another time. I am grateful that, in my eyes, our next President of the United States emanates a certain level of integrity of person. I’m not suggesting for one moment that he is flawless (I’ve been around long enough to realise no one is), but integrity is present. Discerning souls will know it when they see it.

In regards to matters of faith, although relatively little is known of the personal convictions of President-elect Obama, it can be deduced that he does have a healthy grasp on the nature of faith and what living ‘faithfully’ truly means. In Obama’s speech on ‘Faith-Based Initiatives’ that was given in Zanesville, Ohio on July 1st this year, he states:

Now, I didn't grow up in a particularly religious household. But my experience in Chicago showed me how faith and values could be an anchor in my life. And in time, I came to see my faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community; that while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work.

Here, in the last lines, is the essence of integrity: acting in private as we have pledged in public. Or, in this case, fulfilling in public what we have intentioned in the private places of our own soul. One who possesses integrity is an integrated person. Integration is when we act on what we say we believe and we demonstrate what we believe by how we live. This is a pattern of life that makes persons whole and creates a healthy society when we’re compelled by a vision of human living at its best. In my experience, persons of integrity are the kinds of people that inspire me, that challenge me and call me to become the person that I am not yet but that I desire to be.

Come January, I truly hope that the sense I get of a person in which truth dwells deeply within, is not actually another mask put on for personal gain. I don’t think it is. In reality, intelligence is a necessary quality for leaders of nations, but integrity trumps it at the end of the day. Not that we have to decide between them, but in my book there is no contest. Like so many others, I am hopeful for what the future holds - Barack or no Barack - and I am grateful for Providence’s sway on human affairs. From where I sit, the best is yet to come!


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Watch for this post (no longer!) on Risen Magazine and make comments there / here.

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