Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why I Support Barack Obama

The long and short of this is that I want a president I can respect.

I respect Obama. First of all, I respect Obama intellecually. The intellectual respect is two-fold. On the one hand, I deeply respect Obama's personal struggle for identity. Like many Americans, Obama came from a background that kept him from being able to adopt a pre-packaged identity. Obama is black, but had little contact with his Kenyan father, was raised by his white family predominantly on Hawaii, a place with a very different race dynamic from the rest of the United States. When Obama's mother moved from Hawaii to Indonesia, Obama chose to stay in the United States and later to root himself in and marry into Chicago's African American community. Obama had a long struggle for identity and eventually chose to connect with the African American community, and focused much of his early professional life serving that community. I respect him for seriously struggling with his identity and putting down strong roots.

The section aspect of intellectual respect is academic. As a graduate of Columbia College and Harvard Law, Obama attended some of countries finest academic institutions. He shows intellectual curiosity, a skill and comfortability with complexity, and a preparedness to struggle with questions (such as race) which need to be addressed but for which no answer can be claimed to exist. Obama has a top class mind and has spent the time and energy to refine it.

I also respect Obama for being a self-made man. Though he did not grow up in poverty, no one can claim that Obama belonged to the American elite. He has has not had family connections to fall back on for political success, but rather has had to rely on his own successes and merits. I have to admit I am none to eager to have the Clinton dynasty simply alternate with the Bush dynsaty, and the prospect of someone like Obama who has built his own name and doesn't simply rely on Napolean III - type fame excites me.

Finally, I respect Obama because all of the politicians I have heard speak he is the one I find most truthful. I have no allusions, politicians are not in the business of honesty and transparency, but a personal voice matters to me. With Hillary I usually think to myself that she has excellent staff and speech writers and then wonder what she really believes. Obama's willingness to make impromptu statements and express opinions (contrary to general American political style) impresses me.

Those are the reasons I respect Obama as a person.

For me, Obama also represents the type of America I want to live in. Obama has an internationalist perspective and a willingness to address and try and include all ethnic groups in American political life. I want a more inclusive America. I want an America where a black man can be president and people realize that is no better or worse if a white man were president, but that it depends on the person. Particularly following the Bush administration that seemed to represent an old white America plagued by corruption and nepotism, I want a young president who comes from a diverse background and want to improve the country, rather than the position of a select few in that country.

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