“There are many who won’t agree with
every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government
can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the
challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.
“And, above all, I will ask you to
join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in
America for 221 years—block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by
President-elect Barack Obama.Now
that a man with a Muslim name—Barack Obama—and Kenyan father, who was raised
by a stepfather, a single white mother and grandmother from Kansas can
become president of the most powerful country in the world, then we can
achieve big dreams too.
Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday,
who have won elections by subtly appealing to tribal instincts and fears and
attacking one another, must wonder how this man was elevated to the status
of a messiah with such widespread support by a still mainly white
We ask now how he did it.
Firstly, education was his golden
ticket to the top. Obama is a graduate of Harvard Law School, magna cum
laude, and Columbia University—BA, political science.
Secondly, he is utterly devoted to
his family and his wife of 16 years calling Michelle Obama in his acceptance
speech “the love of his life” his “rock” and his “best friend.”
On the day he boarded his plane to
jet to the White House as president-elect he dropped his girls to school. He
stopped in the crucial final days of campaigning to rush to the side of his
Communities and nations are built by
men like this.
Thirdly, he is discipline and fit, a
sportsman. A look at the Obama body will verify this. (Ahem, I don’t expect
the male politicians to pay as much attention to his overall appealing
After a long and hard campaign he
played basketball and hit the gym. This showed he is a team player and
recognises the need to have a clear head and energetic body to set an
example to his increasingly obese nation.
If Obama runs the country the way he
ran his campaign—disciplined, shrewd, attention to minute detail,
visionary—he will succeed in making America great again.
I shudder for us when I see many of
our flabby sluggish MPs nod off after heavy afternoon meals, their bodies
reflecting their minds.
Fourthly, he opted for the high
road, preferring to be aloof to getting down and dirty with his opponents.
Not for him nasty jibes, cheap points that riddle our parliamentary debates.
He maintained a dignified silence
when his opponents implied that he was a Muslim terrorist, was inexperienced
and that he had links to insurgent groups.
He didn’t play to the gallery. He
did not barge into Fox news, and lean on them to suspend media workers or
boycott the station as prime ministers have variously done in this state.
He kept himself and his supporters,
and the undecided, focused on why he was there in the first place.
He cut through his opponents like
butter by talking about jobs, health, college education, security, and the
He surrounded himself by strong men
with a sterling track record of public service and independent thinking. No
“yes men” for him.
He is large spirited. In his
acceptance speech he described John McCain as “extraordinarily gracious...We
are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.”
He is inclusive and doesn’t play
partisan politics speaking to the “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat
and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay,
straight, disabled and not disabled.”
He did not bribe the uneducated to
vote for him, but appealed to the most educated with the values that made
America great—hard work and sacrifice.
Two weeks back I did a vignette from
New York, observing the American Dream dissolve in the aftermath of the
crash on Wall Street.
Now we are impressed. We are blown
away by the American people. The Barack Obama way worked. They rallied.
They pushed past racism, past the
Bradley effect, which said that people would claim to want to vote for Mr
Obama at the polls and that atavism would kick in the voting booth and they
would vote race.
Mr Obama appealed to their better
selves and they responded. This included the politicians. Graciousness
became the “centrepiece” of American leadership.
Mr McCain said of Obama: “His
success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance.
Inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans.” Mr Bush lauded Mr
Obama's victory as a “triumph of the American story.”
Sara Palin was admiring: “There was
nothing mean-spirited—there was no negative campaigning when I called Barack
Obama out on his associations.”
The world is no longer guided by
America’s wealth (there is too much debt, unemployment for that) but their
leaders, their grace, their ability to respect democratic institutions, and
their people who have overcome age-old prejudice, acknowledge one another’s
humanity and in doing so, begin the healing “block by block, brick by brick,
calloused hand by calloused hand.”
That’s the difference between a political animal and a