The Obama Effect

I have lived in Washington, DC for nearly 9 years, and I have witnessed two Presidential inaugurations, one of which occurred post 9/11.  However, I have never seen anything like what is occuring in these days leading to the Obama Inauguration.  The traffic alone last night as I drove through the city was amazing.

There is something in the air.  It is reminiscent of the era of JFK, but it is even more than that.  First, Obama continues to reach out to the rank and file.  I have received dozens of invtitations to inaugural events, some at embassies, some in peoples homes, etc.  There is a real attempt to make this the people;s inauguration by harnessing technololgy and other resources.  Somehow these events are reaching ordinary people like my neighbors and me, and not just the elite.

Second, we are already hearing that Americans can travel the world with heads held high again.  Even in some parts of Africa that cheered on 9/11, odes to Obama are being written.  We could well label this all “Obama Fever.”

I have to confess that I am a Democrate and I voted for Obama.  It was the first vote I cast with enthusiasm since 1996.  Barack Obama is clearly on of the most brilliant men to occupy the White House in some time.  Through his youth, his family bonds, his connection with ordinary people, and a host of tools of which we are barely aware, he has reached out to try to touch all Americans.  Whenter he will ultimately succeed in his vision remains a question mark.

Regardless of whether one agrees with his policies or not, I welcome his inspiration.  In that sense he reminds me of Ronald Reagan.  I did not agree with Regan’s policies, but I could not help but like him.  We see in sports and in myriad places in life that attitude, emotion, and psychology are important parts of the human make-up.   If Obama can fire us up like a football team to go out to get the job done, he will have succeeded wildly.

Interesting, I find myself less and less conscious of his color.  For me he is ceasing to be the first African American President–he is simply an inspiring, talented President.  I hope my experience is not unique, because if pople get used to seeing strong leadership by a man of color, some of our national biases may unconsciously float away.  Often bigotry, whether homophobia, racisim, or something else, is born out of iinexperience with the target group.  It is much harder to bash gays, if one has close gay friends or has witnessed tenderness in a long term gay couple.  It is much harder to discriminate against African Americans if one has friends of color or if a family member has married a person of color.  Hopefully it will be harder for those inclined to discriminate to do so, as they get to know the leader of the free world in the persona of Barack Obama, a man who transcends race and culture.

For the first time in many years, I am hopeful that we might actually be launching the New Frontier into which JFK sought to lead us.

Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 8:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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An Introduction

Years ago, while living in Philadelphia, I regularly read the columns of Darrell Sifford in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  He wrote inspiring columns about life–his own life and those of others he met.  He shared the pain of divorce, alienation from children, remarriage, moving to an over 55 community, and a host of other things.  Sadly, he died an untimely death while scuba diving.  His death was a great loss to the community and the world, as well as to his family.

Over the years I have often thought about Mr. Sifford and how one might follow in his footsteps and continue the extraordinary contribution he made in his writing.  Now as I find myself at an age close to that of Mr. Sifford at the time of his death, and having been touched and inspired by a number of things in recent months, I have decided to have a go at trying to capture the magic of Mr. Sifford’s pen.   I do not claim his talent or skill, but as the poet wrote, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s  a heaven for.”

I welcome you to these pages.

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Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 12:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Inspired By A Dog

Last night my wife, thirteen year old son, and I went to see “Marley and Me.” I was anticipating some combination of “Lassie,” “Old Yeller,” “Beethoven,” and the numerous other feel good movies that I have seen in recent years with my son, and in years gone by with my older children. To my surprise and delight, the film delivered much more.

Of course Marley’s antics and misbehavior reminded me of our dog Autumn’s penchant for taking tissue out of wastebaskets, devouring the mail when the mail carrier puts it in the mail slot, and bolting out the front door to parts unknown any time she thinks she can can get away with doing so. I found myself at the end of the film looking forward to returning home where Autumn would greet us with her rapidly wagging tail, barks of delight, and a jump or two on each of us. I also looked forward to watching my son climb in bed with her where he puts his arm around her nightly and cuddles her like a large doll. What surprised and touched me even more, however, was the view into a real family with real challenges and real love. And, of course, seeing their beautiful Chester County home built of Pennsylvania field stone, reminded me of our beloved Philadelphia.

The power of the film, in my view, comes from its realistic snapshot of life for a young couple as they move from wedding to children, from the orange crates of early career days to the beautiful home of a successful journalist. I empathized with John Brogan as he moved through his career and sought to find himself professionally. As the Brogan family grew from one planned baby to two more not quite planned children, we watched wedded bliss turn into a day from hell, as wife Jennifer coped with the challenges of three small children and a less than obedient, albeit loving, labrador retriever. Sound familiar?

Despite the challenges of a growing family, we see the couple pull together and grow their marriage, mending it rather than ending it, as John observes to his bachelor buddy. The film also gives us a bit of insight into why marriage and family, despite its challenges, means so much to so many of us.

The film reminded me a bit of a time years ago when I saw Thornton Wilder’s Our Town for the second time. The first time I saw it, I was a freshman in college. I knew it was a famous play, but try as I would, I did not understand its greatness. Then I lived a bit longer and saw it again. How can one forget Emily’s soliloquy as she bids farewell to clocks ticking and coffee on the stove in the morning–the little things in life that give life its real meaning.

If your life has become too harried, if the economic downturn has caused you to feel some despair, go see Marley and Me. It may remind you, as it did me, of the little things in life, the human things in life, and sometimes the canine related things in life that really matter.

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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