Josef Čermák: Ambitious Obama

Rubrika: Publicistika – Zajímavosti

Each od us is somehow the product of our genes, our environment and that voice within us no one knows much about. And each of us sees the world a little differently. Some ( and among them some of my friends) said NO to Obama's election as President of the USA. Others ( and I am one of them) accepted Obama's election as a promise that America would once again become the hope of the world. I would be unfaithful to myself if - with all the respect for the view of the friends I mentioned and without the slightest desire to convince them of anything - I didn't say my YES. I am not really that much interested in the circumstances of Obama's victory: that his election campaign is seen by many as the best organized campaign in the history of the USA; that although he started the primaries as a little known senator, he managed - against all expectations - to overwhelm an opponent as brilliant as Senator Hillary Clinton; that three million Americans contributed to his campaign; that he won despite the fact that he was described as a muslim, whose best friends were terrorists, as a friend of the Palestinians, an antisemite and a socialist; that he won in a state (Iowa) with African Americans representing only 2% of its population; and that he won the votes of 54% of the Catholic voters inspite of different views on abortion. What I am more interested in is his personality and in finding his place in history.
To start with, he must be extremely ambitious - otherwise I cannot imagine why he would want to be president of a country, which is presently experiencing the worst crisis of its banking system in the last seventy years, a country with a skyrocketing unemployment (1.5 million in the last 10 months alone); a country whose president commenced a war (on the basis of evidence that proved false) which already cost the USA thousands of dead and hundreds billions dollars, while the infrastructure of its cities grows dangerously old; a country with an insoluble 'imigration'  problem with Mexico; a country once almost universally loved and now almost hated; a country with declining standard of living and tens of millions of people without health insurance. And even ambition wouldn't be enough to compell a man to assume a burden almost unbearable. Ambition would not be enough to make him wander day after day, month after month, from place to place and repeat,  over and over again {with slight variations) the same promises, the same accusations against his opponent, with the same enthusiasm as when he had uttered them the first time. To be able to do that he must also be convinced that he was chosen (by God, by destiny) to lead his people from the desert of today into the promise of a better tomorrow. And he must have the energy of a marathon runner. Obama obviously possesses these qualities (and he is not alone: his opponent, the candidate of the Republican Party, Senator John McCain, in spite of his 72 years - some of which he spent as a Vietnamese prisoner of war - is obviously endowned with the same ambition, the same feeling of  historical mission and - for his age - inredible energy).
Obama has other qualities which predermined his arrival in the White House. When I first heard him speaking on television  - prior to his anouncing his candidacy - I was reminded of two orators with famous names: John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson. Obama's voice has the hypnotizing quality of Kennedy's voice and the richness of his vocabulary almost equals Stevenson's. During his campaign, he displayed discipline and deliberation sharply contrasting with the ruffled, capricious style of Senator McCain. Example: when the banking crisis erupted, McCain anounced that he was interrupting his campaign and challenged Obama to do the same. Obama refused arguing that a president must be prepared to deal with several problems simultaneously. He is aggressive and competetive and he learned in his young days in the streets of Chicago to receive - and deliver - hard punches, but I don't believe I noticed any hits bellow the belt. I was impressed by his coolness, the peacefull timbre of his temperament, toleration of other people's view, a will to look for solution without  rattling arms, ability to find threads which tie us all on our journey from the cradle to death. This 'half-breed' lived in several ountries and saw the life of the disinherited of this earth, the life of the middle class and lately, the life of the privileged. And he feels that in spite of all the problems besetting USA, it is still the only country which allows any man if he has the ability (and luck is on his side) to start as a delivery boy and end as president.


In my view election of Senator Obama as president is the most convincing evidence of the vitality and resilience of the American system:
a mere fifty years ago (I was already in Canada and from distance followed one of the most dramatic chapters of the American history)Martin Luther King, Jr. organized the boycott of the racially segregated buses in Montgomery; a mere fifty years ago the racial hatred in the United States led to murders od black people by members of Ku Klux Klan and to brutal methods, including dogs and violence, used by  police against peaceful black demonstrators of African Americans, even children; including the bullet fired by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 which ended King's life. Barack Obama was then 7 years old. 40 years later he was - incredibly - elected pesident of the USA, winning even in the states, in which the persecution of the black people was worst. An event strengthening our hope that - in spite of everything - man is becoming human.
None of us knows what kind of president Obama may be. Nor, how much power may corrupt his character. I feel that he is uniquely qualified to be a great president. I feel that his election may open the reservoir of untouched energy locked in the American minorities and may strengthen the best instincts in the American people. I feel that it may introduce a new dimension into the world politics. I think that - as someone recently observed - his election will finally end the Civil War; that his election reafirms the historical role of the United States, the role so simply and eloquently defined by Abraham Lincoln (a Republican) in his speech delivered on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the national cemetery on the Gettysburg battlefield. He begab his "little speech" (as he called it) which followed the two-hour (now mostly forgiotten) speech made by the main speaker, Edward Everette, with the words: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." That all men are created equal.... Although Lincoln fought the Civil War not to free the slaves but to preserve the Union, the issue of the equality of races was an indirect cause of the war and Lincoln used the victory of his army in the battle at Antietan to sign his Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the 'Negroes" in the seceding states. He was shot at Ford's Theatre  on April 14, 1865 by a "sentimental lover of the South", actor John Wilkes Booth,  and died the following morning.

The central figure of the second act of this drama is Martin Luther King, whose ghandian philosophy of refusing to use violence in the struggle for equality for the black people earned him many honours, including the Nobel Prize in 1964, a year after he organized his March of 200,000 people on Washington. Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial he made a speech inspired by a line he found in a book in his library about 'American dream unfulfilled'. The motif returns in his speech again and again: "I have a dream...I have a dream.. This speech now known all over the world inspired the composer Oskar Morawetz to write his Memorial to Martin Luther King , made particularly famous by the American cellist Yo Yo Ma. King's violent death - four moths before the invasion of Czehoslovakia by the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries - sealed (just as it did in Lincoln's case) his claim on immortality.
The third act began with the longest - and costliest - presidential campaign in the history of the United States, with the hypnostic repetition of three words: "Yes we can", with the unstoppable stream of words,  with the emergence of the new generation, with the stirring up of the political atmosphere and flowering of expectation - not only in the United States but in most of the world - of miracles, which may be beyond any man's reach. The first months of his presidency will  probably be a period of an orgy of activity which should indicate the measure of Obama's talents. It appears to me that my three heroes share at least one talent: a talent to use words as poets do. If I were superstitious (and if I were Obama), I would be especially on guard in the month of April.

Tento článek byl v Pozitivních novinách poprvé publikován 12. 11. 2008.