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Editorial / Periscope - Niall O'Dowd
Obama for President
October 15, 2008
THESE are the worst of times. A recession verging on depression, an unpopular war, huge deficits and a deeply unpopular president have all combined to make Americans restless for dramatic change as successive surveys have found.
At such a time we need to put aside many of the issues that we as a community believe dearly in when it comes to choosing a president. It is simply too fraught a time to play the ethnic see-saw game between two candidates.
Indeed, were we to play that game it would have ended up pretty equal. John McCain has been eloquent and supportive on immigration and helpful on Northern Ireland.
After a brief stumble on the issue of the special envoy Barack Obama’s campaign has clearly become far more responsive to the Irish American community, as last week’s answers to the AOH questionnaire on issues such as immigration and Northern Ireland proved. Both men, it must be said, would be friends of Irish America and Ireland if elected. Both are proud of their Irish heritage.
But on the much broader issue of who can take this country out of the slough of despondency it has sunk into and create new leadership that the world is desperately seeking, there is no doubt that there is a crystal clear choice.
Indeed, it is abundantly clear that one candidate far outstrips the other when it comes to the need to effect the change we desperately need.
Barack Obama is that man. He would send an extraordinary message to the world if he is elected that America is prepared to turn a chapter, first of all by electing an African American to the highest position in the land.
He is no ordinary African American either, the grandson of a Kenyan goat herder, born to a single mother, a man who hardly knew his father. Now, in a retelling of the classic immigrant family success story, unique to America he stands on the threshold of the White House.
We Irish can relate to that extraordinary moment in time, that up from the bootstraps moment where nothing is ever the same again. Whether it was John F. Kennedy smashing the anti-Catholic bigotry in 1960 or Ronald Reagan overcoming his own desperately humble beginnings as the son of an alcoholic salesman to win the presidency in 1980, the die was irretrievably cast and a new direction pointed for ever more. It is perhaps no coincidence that both men are probably the most popular figures in their respective parties today.
Obama’s election would also immediately restore confidence in American leadership worldwide that has sadly been badly lacking in the Bush years. Unilateralism as a system of governance has clearly not worked.
In the aftermath of 9/11 we were the most admired and respected country on earth. “We are all Americans now” Le Monde editorialized on September 12, 2001.
Ireland declared a day of national mourning in solidarity with America. A new era beckoned in international cooperation, and yet we frittered all that away by rushing to war in Iraq and insisting that whatever the crisis wherever in the world we had the only legitimate world view on how to solve it.
It is painful to travel overseas and see how far our star has sunk. This country cannot separate itself from the western and indeed eastern world as isolationists would wish us to. The latest financial crisis definitively proves that. We are all connected and just one e-mail away.
Barack Obama has the ability to transform the current view of America with his election. He would send an eloquent signal to the world that America has made a fresh start, that the tried and stale policies of the recent past have been banished for good and that a vibrant new era has arrived. He should be our next president.
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