Wednesday, January 21, 2009

looking backwards and forwards

I'm going to do something I don't do very often and write a (potentially) long post. I don't normally do this because I almost never read long posts on other people's blogs, at least not in their entirety. (sorry friends) I've just been thinking about somethings lately that I want to say. And it all stems from the election of our new leader.

First, I've been thinking of Former President Bush. As I watched the inauguration yesterday one of my many emotions was sadness for him. Here is a man who took on an extremely difficult job and did it to the best of his abilities and according to what he felt was right. Even if we don't agree with his decisions maybe we can acknowledge that he made them according to his personal convictions. And yet he has been the brunt of scorn, ridicule, and hate. In the process of our new beginning personified in President Barack Obama it seems as if we have already forgotten what and who has gone before. This is not a place to nitpick through Bush's 8 years as president, nor am I the person to do so. I just wanted, in some small way, to honor this man who stayed true to himself and his sense of right and wrong.

In the current edition of Relevant magazine (with Pete Greig on the cover !) the editors note is called The Untold Story. In the opening paragraphs editor Cameron Strang says this, "Recently, I was reminded of one of the most significant untold stories of our generation, and it happens to center on our outgoing president. It's a story so important that I contend a hundred years from now, it will actually be the primary thing history uses to define President George W. Bush's administration. And it has gone virtually unreported by the media."

Strang goes on to tell the story of PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). PEPFAR has increased the number of people in Africa living with AIDS who receive anti-retroviral medication from 50,000 in 2003 to surpassing the original goal of 2 million people in 2008. As a result of the medication and simultaneous education a further 8 million people have not contracted the disease who otherwise would have. "PEPFAR is touching every aspect of African society, it's changing the course of Africa's future." The success of the program led to Bush pushing through a tripling of its funding this past summer.

"A president must have a firm set of principles from which he will not deviate. I believe in the universality of freedom, and I believe freedom is universal because of an almighty God. It's not just freedom from tyranny that the US must become involved in, I believe it's freedom from disease, freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation. If you believe in the universality of freedom, then you should not shy away from doing your duty." -George W. Bush

That's all for looking back, now for looking forward.

I was very moved watching the inauguration yesterday. So many things were vying for my attention. I was constantly reminded of my third grade teacher, Elise Johnson now Foster, who taught us about many American heroes during Black History Month in February 18 years ago.

I was challenged by President Obama's focused and almost militant speech. Phrases like, "Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." and "Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. "

I am looking forward with hope that our new president will be more than someone who inspires and gives good speeches, but that he will be a true leader, a man of action and determination. I am looking forward to seeing a new birth in our country, let us "be the participants in making it so."

I know that some of my friends from other countries were probably cringing at some of President Obama's statements, and I understand those cringes. But deep in my heart I am still proud to be an American. I believe in the strength of a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." I look at history and I see how my country was the first of many to embrace these ideals. And yes, I know that the road has been rocky and we've had to backtrack now and then. But we continue to move forward, we do not give up. And I am proud to be from the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

Here is a slideshow put together by a childhood friend of mine, actually the son of my third grade teacher, who is an amazing photographer of election night in Grant Park in Chicago.

I guess that's all.

1 comment:

rosie said...

Beautiful post, my dear! Amen! THANK you for saying it all!!!