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Friday, February 29, 2008

Why I'm supporting Obama

For several weeks now, I've been compiling a list of reasons why I believe Sen. Barack Obama should win the Democratic nomination for president. Normally, I don't weigh in so publicly on these matters, but I believe transparency is important. There isn't a thinking person in this country who doesn't have strong feelings about who would best lead this country. I'm just adding mine to the chorus. I don't cover politics in my daily work, I'm not working on any campaign and I'm still debating whether or not to allow a campaign sign in my front yard.

But the stakes are too high, the need for change to strong to remain silent. So with Ohio's primary coming up on Tuesday, I thought now was the time to speak up. Not for a second do I believe anything I say will sway anyone. That's not my intention here. My only purpose is to compile what I look for in a presidential candidate and what I see in my choice. You'll notice I don't talk particulars about issues. I agree with Obama's ideas for the most part. But what I'm more interested in as a voter and a citizen is how a leader thinks. So here's what I observe.

1) Obama talks about the politics of "we" versus "I."

2) He speaks beautifully, authentically and intelligently. At the very least, a president should be able to move citizens with his (or her) words.

3) He writes beautifully, authentically and intelligently. I've not yet read "The Audacity of Hope," but his memoir "Dreams From My Father" is poetic. Writer Alice Walker talks about his abilities are a thinker and writer.

4) He is of MY generation, sharing the experiences of MY generation. When he talked about having monthly student load debt higher than his mortgage, I can relate. Even my husband, who comes from a long line of Republicans, is enthusiastically supporting Obama.

5) Anyone who has read his book understands that he has come to be the confident, poised person he projects by having endured a poignant, painful and prolonged journey to find himself and his purpose in this life, to forge a relationship with God, to reconcile his identity and to make peace with a father who wasn't there.

6) He has energized young people by raising the level of discourse and by asking them to get involved. In other words, he believes in young people and in their contributions to this nation. He cares about what THEY care about and that makes him an authentic voice for America's future.

7) I know he's not a native of Chicago, but he embodies Midwestern values and a Midwestern sensibility.

8) He has struggled with faith and written about it beautifully. To me, that says he's a thinking—and feeling—person willing to work through struggles to find the good in this life.

9) I check his Web site daily.

10) I've come as close as I've ever come in my lifetime to clicking the "volunteer" button.

11) The poetry and treatise on democracy he has inspired among newspaper editorial boards, cultural leaders, political leaders and even the chattering classes is uplifting. Here are some examples that I find particularly stirring:

The Arizona Republic:
His oratory soars. While talk alone isn't enough, it has been a very long time since Americans had a leader who appealed to their better nature.
Los Angeles Times:
An Obama presidency would present, as a distinctly American face, a man of African descent, born in the nation's youngest state, with a childhood spent partly in Asia, among Muslims. No public relations campaign could do more than Obama's mere presence in the White House to defuse anti-American passion around the world, nor could any political experience surpass Obama's life story in preparing a president to understand the American character. His candidacy offers Democrats the best hope of leading America into the future, and gives Californians the opportunity to cast their most exciting and consequential ballot in a generation.

In the language of metaphor, Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility. Clinton would be a valuable and competent executive, but Obama matches her in substance and adds something that the nation has been missing far too long -- a sense of aspiration.
San Francisco Chronicle

In a Jan. 17 meeting with our editorial board, Obama demonstrated an impressive command of a wide variety of issues. He listened intently to the questions. He responded with substance. He did not control a format without a stopwatch on answers or constraints on follow-up questions, yet he flourished in it.

He radiated the sense of possibility that has attracted the votes of independents and tapped into the idealism of young people during this campaign. He exuded the aura of a 46-year-old leader who could once again persuade the best and the brightest to forestall or pause their grand professional goals to serve in his administration.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

The Obama campaign has been derisively and incorrectly described as more rock tour than political campaign and his supporters as more starry-eyed groupies than thoughtful voters.

If detractors in either party want to continue characterizing the Obama campaign this way, they will have seriously underestimated both the electorate's hunger for meaningful change in how the nation is governed and the candidate himself.

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board on Wednesday, the first-term senator proved himself adept at detail and vision. They are not mutually exclusive.

Chicago Tribune
By one measure, this endorsement is a paradox. We're urging votes for a candidate whose political views we often disagree with. But this is a more complicated contest, and a more complex candidate, than the norm. This nation's next president inherits a war -- against terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere -- that has found many ways to divide Americans. Capitol Hill is gridlocked and uncivil. Our discourse is hostage to blame.

Obama can help this nation move forward. A Tribune profile last May labeled his eight years in Springfield as "a study in complexity, caution and calculation. In the minority party for all but his final two years in the Statehouse, he tempered a progressive agenda with a cold dash of realism, often forging consensus with conservative Republicans when other liberals wanted to crusade."
Boston Globe

Obama's memoir, "Dreams From My Father," is divided into three main sections. The first is a reflection on his youthful search for identity. The second recounts his days in Chicago, which include the first stirrings of a religious life. The third is a roots pilgrimage to Kenya, to better understand his often absent father. It is hard to read this book without longing for a president with this level of introspection, honesty, and maturity - and Obama published it when he was only 33.

"I genuinely believe that our security and prosperity are going to depend on how we manage our continued integration into the rest of the world," he says. Obama's story is the American story, a deeply affecting tale of possibility. People who vote for him vote their hopes. Even after seven desolating years, this country has not forgotten how to hope.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Comets don't come around that often. In January of 1961, Ann Dunham Obama was six weeks pregnant with Barack Obama Sr.'s child when President Kennedy said at his inauguration that "the torch has been passed to a new generation." It's that time again.
New York Observer

Democracy is the greatest strength of this still-young nation. Its living enactment is our gift to the world. It is the product of our best instincts and most powerful ideals. But it has been polluted, sullied and compromised by an obstructive administration that seems to have to have no particular regard for its attributes.

It is difficult to remember the last national candidate who has charged and jazzed the democratic system as Mr. Obama has. Partly as a result of his candidacy, college campuses have remembered why they are proud of the United States, kids are going door to door, runners are handing out leaflets on weekends, racial lines have been culturally melted and the electoral approach to presidential campaigning has been reborn.

And, as more than one commentator has said, America is being reintroduced to the world.

Because of who he is and what he stands for, a former constitutional law teacher with few ties to the Washington establishment yet a sophisticated respect for it, Mr. Obama stands the best chance of restoring the essential relationship between power and the American people. He is not flanked and blocked by an existing, entrenched power structure; his words are not muddied by layers of handlers; he still says what he means.

13) He has the love, support and strength of his incredibly smart wife, Michelle, without the familial drama that accompanies the Clintons.

14) And finally, if you believe in emotional intelligence and the power of Primal Leadership, he is the choice to lead.

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