Sunday, January 27, 2008

Exhausted by Reality , I am gambling on idealism, dreams... call it hope

The NYT endorsement of H. Clinton got widely covered in other media. The more I heard about it, the more I felt like a sell out. The more I heard about the behavior of the candidates and of Bill Clinton the more I felt unsettled. As one of my friends who was thinking of voting for Hillary put it, "I've never felt so bad about voting for someone before." We all grimaced and looked at the floor in shameful agreement.

The the Chicago Tribune and Caroline Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama. Having met the Tribune editorial board, watched them discuss and decide on their positions, and become an admirer of their work, I was swayed back toward Obama. Kennedy's appeal to voters threw me fully into Obama's court, though. She's right--they are all qualified. She also articulated the same opinion I've been espousing of late--we need a leader who inspires our citizens and the people of the world who watch us whether we like it or not. Without meaning disrespect, leaders do not have to know everything about everything they will be leading. The President surrounds himself with advisers and other leaders who hold fast to their own ideals (usually similar to his) and have their own ideas about how to achieve their mutual goals. The leader is the spokesperson for those goals, and i have yet to see Obama give a speech that falls flat.

At every turn, as an American citizen, I have reason to be sad: the economy sucks and I am poor; the war continues and I listen for the names of friends on the roll call of the dead; the President speaks and I am embarrassed; the fundamentalist evangelical Christians shout their un-Biblical views and I fight to remind people that Jesus didn't make exceptions when he said "Love one another." Our education system flounders in testing and funding problems and my relief at departing that battle saddens me. My husband enters the medical field as a doctor while my parents and friends' parents get older and social security and medical insurance questions questions become real instead of "one day" and I wonder how it will all work out. My immigrant colleagues work several minimum wage jobs and raise families with several children and I wonder where they are on the radar of the immigrant-hating people, even if they are here legally.

Kennedy is right. The top three Democratic candidates are all intelligent, they all have detailed plans, they all offer leadership. But Obama offers inspiration and when I see him smile or say the word "hope" I see sincerity in his demeanor that I don't buy in the smiles of the others with their years of grooming for the public eye.

I want to believe in something. I believe in God, and He brings a certain degree of comfort, but it would be really nice to have a human hanging out here, leading our country and making us think that the world isn't falling apart--that somehow we might be able to save it and ourselves from the ways of the past that have destroyed so much of the future. I want to believe that things can change and that a leader can direct us in the right direction and that people will follow him.

I want a real example of true and sincere goodness, and I want to feel like I voted on the side of hope.

Besides, when we see something good we can never really afford the risk of waiting "until we are ready." We are so ready now that we are desperate for change.

Waiting is dangerous: Look what happened to Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Robert Kennedy.

So, Barack Obama, I hope making your Presidency a reality will make our idealistic dreams a reality as well.

Below are the articles from the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times:

For the Democrats: Obama

January 27 2008

In 1996, this page endorsed a Chicago attorney, law school instructor and community activist named Barack Obama for a seat in the Illinois Senate. We've paid him uncommon scrutiny ever since, wryly glad that he lived up to our modest prediction: We said Obama "has potential as a political leader."

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,847324.story

Visit at

Op-Ed Contributor

A President Like My Father

Published: January 27, 2008

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Caroline Kennedy is the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love.”

No comments: