Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Open Letter to Senator Obama

Dear Senator Barack Obama:

Does history make the man or does man make history? Rarely is there a confluence of events which might help answer that question and, with your presumptive Democratic nomination for the Presidency, you have the opportunity to make the kind of difference our founding fathers did at the birth of our nation, or Lincoln did bringing our nation back from the brink of self destruction, or Roosevelt’s seeing us through the most destructive war in history.

Although one could cite a litany of maladies our nation now suffers from, at the core is our loss of credibility abroad, our lack of a national plan for energy independence, and the ongoing irreconcilability of conservative and liberal values and its resultant impact on the social fabric of race relations, religious tolerance and educational opportunities.

Your life reads like a microcosm of the United Nations, born to a black, Kenyan father who was raised a Muslim, and a white mother who you described as being “detached from religion,” who later divorced your father and married an Indonesian; thus you attended schools in Jakarta until you were ten years old. But you then lived with your white grandmother’s family in Honolulu until you graduated high school. You met your wife Michelle, an African American, while you interned in a law office and you were married at the time you became a Christian.

I came of age during the tumultuous late 50’s and 60’s as the civil rights movement and the cold war raged, as we became mired in a senseless war in Viet Nam, and painfully endured the assassinations of beloved leaders, John F, Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King. Then, we succumbed to the national disgraces of the 70’s, a wrecked economy, becoming hostages to countries that hate us in the Middle East, American prestige sinking to new lows, and the age of Watergate politics. The one thing we could point to with pride was our ability to set a national goal as John F. Kennedy did in 1961, to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade and actually doing the unthinkable, the impossible.

Today is not too far removed from then. Our economic difficulties of mounting national debt and a declining dollar, a decaying infrastructure, and the lack of better healthcare for our sick and better education for our young can be traced to a needless war, and to being hostage, once again, to oil producing nations. Racial and religious divisiveness still erodes the fabric of our society. The view of America abroad has undermined our ability to effectively deal with terrorism and to address global environmental issues. Politics again slithers along a slippery Machiavellian slope.

It is extraordinary that we could be at the brink of electing you, our first African American President. If these problems were less extreme, this moment may not have arrived. Senator Obama, seize the day, and use this unique opportunity as a conciliator, to help bridge the abyss between races and religions, leading us away from Iraq and towards energy independence. We have the alternative energy technology, the clean natural gas resources, and nuclear capability to substantially decrease our dependence on fossil fuels if only we could develop the backbone to sacrifice short-term gratification for long-term gains, declaring it as a national objective. By achieving energy independence, our economic problems will diminish.

Your opponents have criticized your limited political experience, making it one of their main issues in attacking your candidacy. Lincoln too was relatively inexperienced, something he made to work to his advantage. Forge cooperation across the aisle in congress, creating your own “team of rivals” as Doris Kearns Goodwin described his cabinet in her marvelous civil war history.

Some people have pointed to 9/11 as a manifestation of the clash between the Muslim and Christian worlds. Given your personal background, you have what may be a unique opportunity to establish a dialogue between these two worlds and in so doing begin to restore our international standing. Just electing you will demonstrate to the world that we can put our ideals into action.