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The Obama Issue

Southern Arizonans express themselves regarding the inauguration of the 44th president


I am a Peace Corps education volunteer, teaching English and living in a country that has been benefiting from American volunteers for almost 47 years now. As a volunteer, I am here to better the lives of Cameroonians, as well as to exchange culture, and in the seven months I have lived here, the American elections have been an exciting source of cultural exchange.

I live in a very small village of about 1,500 people. I have electricity for about four hours during the night, if I'm lucky, and I live with people who mostly farm for a living. However, even with these limitations, I have found that my village was not only excited about this election, but it's all I have heard about since September.

When traveling, I was stopped by the local police and asked if I was John McCain's "sister." When I replied that I was Obama's "sister," they all laughed and said that this could not be true, because he was Africa's brother, and I was white.

After months of discussing Barack with villagers who spent nights sitting by their radios, listening to the latest news from their brother, it was finally Election Day, and the whole village was charged. When the news finally arrived that Barack had won, everyone congratulated me personally. I was sought out and wished a bon fète for the occasion and was later offered many beers in order to toast Barack and the victory for all of the African people. When I walked into my classes, my students chanted "Barack Obama" over and over. During class, I would ask a question like, "What is the past tense of the verb 'to see,'" and someone would raise their hand and just yell, "Barack Obama!" and the students would start chanting again. Their excitement was contagious, and I ended up giving a short lesson on information about the new president-elect so that the students knew a little more than just his name.

Working as an English teacher in French-speaking Africa has been very difficult, but I have found that the one thing that has translated is the people's immense pride for their country and their people. Barack Obama's election was a momentous occasion in America. Here in my small village of Ndelele, where I am the only American for miles, my country made me proud because of the hope it is giving a new generation of Africans.

—Elyse Tussey
Peace Corps volunteer (and former Tucsonan), Ndelele, Cameroon

Someone once said, "If you can't say anything good about someone, don't say anything at all." Using that for a guideline (and George W. Bush for a subject), this wouldn't be a long piece at all.

I was impressed that he ordered food supplies to be dropped to the Afghani people while we were bombing their country (even though one food pallet broke through a roof and killed a poor woman); that did seem like a truly Christian gesture to me.

But considering everything else that followed, let me quote this: "I came here to bury Caesar (Bush)—not to praise him."

These are some of the things I'll remember about the Cheney/Bush administration: that as decent a man as Colin Powell was sent like some errand-boy to the United Nations to give nothing but hearsay evidence as a pretext for going to war. The United Nations didn't buy the weapons-of-mass-destruction argument any more than I and some other Americans did. Why did most of Congress accept these arguments as well?

I'll always remember that this Idiot Prince of ours insisted on the most ill-conceived war in our country's history, and never intended to raise taxes to pay for that bloody folly—in fact, he insisted on lowering taxes (mostly for the richest of us). We were never expected to sacrifice a damned thing; we had an all-volunteer military to do our sacrificing for us. "The Decider" was in charge.

I'll remember how he (and Cheney) drastically lowered world opinion of America. I'll remember that the war has resulted in the destruction, agony and deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi noncombatants. And that after the WMDs were found to be nonexistent, and when prisoner abuses/torture and killings were discovered and reported on ... there were enough American voters to re-elect this regime to another four years of office. Sadly, I will remember that as well.

—Larry Windham

The red, white and blue Cadillac roared down the highway, smoke billowing behind. "Daddy, we're lost!" the little girl in the passenger seat sobbed plaintively.

The lanky driver adjusted the rearview mirror to catch his reflection. "Baby, daddy knows where we're going; go back to sleep."

The Cadillac roared ever faster, swerving wildly—and hitting some people from behind. The driver, nonplussed, adjusted the driver's-side mirror to catch another angle of himself and scanned the instruments. Temperature: red. Gas: just above "E." He relaxed, sitting back in the plush seat. "If you'd gone to sleep, you wouldn't be crying" he said. "You wanted to take this trip with daddy."

Thrown into the armrest, she sobbed harder as the car lurched to pass on the shoulder. She screamed at him over the wind, "This isn't the way—daddy, we missed the right road!"

He looked at her, eyebrows raised. "Oh, is that a fact, little missy?"

As she stared mournfully into the right-side mirror, it exploded off as the car swiped a pillar entering a tunnel. The girl gasped apoplectically. "We're going too fast, and we're hitting people, and it smells like gas, and the car's falling apart, and we took the wrong road, and there's no tunnel on the way to grandma's, but you won't listen, and daddy, I'm scared." She broke down clutching her doll.

"Well, what—" he snapped, then checked his tone. "Uh, what would you suggest?" he finished in a practiced monotone.

"We had to take exit 9-11 like mommy does!" she wailed.

He scoffed. "Look, you're being a brat. We have to look forward. I believe I'm right, and I believe in this car."

He looked into her eyes, eerily calm. "I need you to believe in me."

—Mike Swanson

I hope that those in Washington, D.C., remember what they were sent there for: to serve not only those who voted for them, but also for those ideas in the Constitution.

We have seen enough of a war that is neither popular nor just, and a financial crisis not seen since the days of our grandparents—one that affects everybody, especially those who are the least prepared.

We are seeing a new breed of greed in the country, one reminiscent of the DuPonts, Vanderbilts and Rockefellers of the last century, where money is no object, and accountability is of no concern.

We had a president who has lost touch with those he was sworn in to govern. It is similar to that line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "Let me have men about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights."

As President Obama takes the oath on Jan. 20, I hope that he keeps in mind those things that he said in 2004: "It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother's keeper. I am my sister's keeper that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family. E pluribus unum: 'Out of many, one.'"

—Martin Bernal

Change is what we are looking for in President-elect Barack Obama, and I welcome change. We seek a fresh young man with fresh new ideas, who can resurrect the faltering pride within the United States of America, a man with ideas to rebuild the sagging economy, supply jobs to unemployed American citizens and make health care affordable.

I have some simple, yet cost-effective ideas to bring about change: Make English the official language; we could save billions by not translating everything. Stop treating the constant flow of injuries, arrests, births and murders committed by illegal immigrants; people who arrive to abuse our system and then depart to other countries leave American taxpayers with a large unpaid bill. Do not allow people of unknown documented origin to receive benefits designed for American citizens. Pull our troops out of a war we should not have entered; save billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

Americans need to step up to the plate and get this once-proud country back. I believe change will come with Barack Obama, and I welcome change.

—Marilyn Luca

Dear President Obama,

There is a lot of talk about your creating a new "New Deal" to bring the nation out of this recession/depression and to create the change we need. There are lessons to be learned from Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

Roosevelt took office in 1933 trying to build an all-class coalition, to get labor and capital and everybody else working together. Your Cabinet picks, in the main, reflect the same kind of centrist hope that class antagonisms will be set aside for the greater good. But it didn't happen in 1933, and it is not likely to happen in 2009. It took two difficult years for FDR to understand that corporations would never willingly allow labor to assert their rights, would never voluntarily accept an excess-profits tax and would never embrace Social Security. It took two painful years for the American people, the middle and working classes, to get FDR's attention and for him to understand that his own capitalist class would rather continue the Depression than give up some of their prerogatives. It was only in 1935 that he came out swinging, and we got the Wagner Act, Social Security and an excess-profits tax.

Don't squander two years on a pipe dream. Don't allow the suffering to grow while you try to teach the unteachable. Do the right thing: Rebuild the economy with green jobs from the get-go. Bail out industries only where you can use that as leverage for the changes they would never make themselves. Rein in the bankers and speculators who are lining up like pigs at the trough. Confront the arrogance of power by mobilizing us, your real constituency, in support of change that makes sense, that benefits the people and not the profiteers.

—Albert Vetere Lannon

Obama reminds me of a young captain who is about to lead a platoon on "ambush." Says he: "Follow me, men! We will harm no civilian. We will try to capture 'Charlie,' take him prisoner, bring him back to our firebase, feed him a hot meal, tend to any medical needs he might have, and if he promises to be good, release him."

But as the group begins to penetrate the jungle, and as night falls, the idealistic opportunity begins to fade. The AK-47s of the miserable economy, the terrorists and the inability to fund his projects will turn things around.

"But I meant it to be different," he will cry out.

He will survive the "ambush," but many of his troops will not make it out.

—John Ryzek

We finally have a president who can write a book (and read one), and speak creatively, simply and sanely.

We have all suffered the past eight years from ineptitude, lies and subterfuge. We hope and look forward to honesty, integrity, transparency and authenticity in government. It's like waking up after a long, dark storm full of fury and catastrophe, and discovering a beautiful, sunshiny day full of joy and freedom.

The only people disappointed are the rich, the very rich, those who don't care and the fearful. It's a new day in America, and we rejoice!

—Lawrence Quilici

I tell people that Monty Python has ruined my life—and Mr. Obama's inauguration will be no exception in being ruined for me.

For those who remember comedian Richard Pryor, of course, he will have to get into the act from the next world. He probably swore it would be a cold day in hell before a black man was elected president of the United States. Can't you see him cracking everyone around him up in the next world? Then he shouts out to the devil, "Lucifer, it's a cold day in hell; turn up the heat!" (I'm sure the devil is sorry about the day Richard Pryor became one of his tenants.)

Mr. Obama realizes he will have more than his work cut out for him. "I don't want to be president," he groans, à la Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Michelle is not taking this one lying down. "Shut up, and don't be such a baby; I know what's good for you! I've bought the inauguration dress and dresses for all those state dinners. I am looking forward to not cooking for the next eight years. ... The Holy Grail is waiting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You have answered the bridgekeeper's questions, so by God, you will be president! So write that inauguration speech, and make me proud!"

Jan. 20, 2009. It is four degrees below zero, the coldest inauguration on record. The Spanish Inquisition—sorry, Secret Service agents—have icicles on their Bluetooth phones. Mr. Obama finally gets up, and the speech is as follows:

"You must all figure it out for yourselves."

These will only be the first of many Python moments.

—Michael Charton

Cookie predicted that W. would steal another election in 2004. My favorite neighbor and dearest friend was dying of cancer. She desperately wanted American voters to wise up and give "the good ol' boy from Texas" the boot. We both prayed for an end to the tyranny and deceit of the self-serving Bush administration.

It didn't happen. Five months later, Cookie was gone.

As the 2008 election ploddingly approached, I could almost hear Cookie's voice on the breeze warning that John McCain would win. My heart sank. I couldn't face the crushing disappointment again. Certain rich, white Republicans would never allow a female or black Democrat into the Oval Office. There are still too many Neanderthals in this country who refuse to evolve, who continue to hate their brothers based on gender, race, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.

I requested Nov. 4 off work. I consumed several glasses of red wine as the results came in.

My gut instincts had been wrong. Tears glazed over my eyes (was it my emotions or the alcohol?) as I watched the celebration in Chicago's Grant Park. Obama had done the impossible, and somewhere in heaven, Cookie was rejoicing with the angels.

I woke up on Nov. 5 to discover a more dazzling blue sky over Southern Arizona. My soul was renewed with hope. I decided to purchase a newspaper to commemorate that historic day. Obama's smiling face graced the covers of all three periodicals in a row in the newspaper machines.

Suddenly, I felt nauseous and enraged. There, painted in bold white letters across the glass of each machine, was the N-word—a venomous, malignant word which I loathe. Right here in Tucson, there are people in dire need of education and enlightenment.

Pray for them. I know Cookie will.

—Dave Ryan

Abner Mikva, a former U.S. congressman and federal judge from Chicago, was compelled to describe Barack Obama as America's first Jewish president. This statement went largely unreported in the media, and probably elicits confusion from anyone reading it now: How can a black man with an Arabic name be so described?

The fact that Obama was recruited into politics by a Jewish professor while at Harvard indicates that something has been afoot for some time. The fact that Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker has supported and encouraged Obama throughout his political career sheds more light. The fact that Rahm Emanuel has been named White House chief of staff should leave little doubt that President Obama will be heavily influenced by the Israel lobby.

Why does any of this matter? Because it strongly suggests that U.S. foreign policy regarding the Middle East, and Israel specifically, will not change under the Obama administration. Israel will continue to treat Gaza as a concentration camp and the West Bank as a walled-off ghetto. When the media refers to these two areas as occupied territories, they generally fail to elaborate on the fact that they are both legally Palestinian per the United Nations partition plan of 1947.

Should U.S. citizens care? Bush said Arab terrorists hate us because we are free. The truth is, many Arabs hate the U.S. government because it supports Israel. Iraq and Iran have never been a threat to the United States, but they have long been a threat to Israel. So Obama as America's first Jewish president means that American blood and treasure will continue to be spent fighting Israel's battles.

I hope I am wrong.

—Kirk Alexander

First, the bad news: In trailer parks all over the country, millions of goober bungholes are clamping shut at the mere idea of a black man as president. At the moment when Barack Obama utters the words, "So help me God," the shockwave generated by the collective redneck sphincter-spasm may very well destroy civilization as we know it.

The good news: Assuming civilization survives, Tom Danehy will have at least four more years to periodically bitch (and get paid for said bitching) about black people having unusual, i.e., " ethnic" names.

Thank you, President Obama. Your job-saving program is off to a healthy start.

—Matt Honeycutt

Almost 40 years ago, on Dec. 4, 1969, a 20-year-old black man was murdered in his bed by Chicago police. A grand jury investigation proved the officers' testimony differed from the forensic evidence at the scene. The Black Panther Party gave tours of the apartment where Fred Hampton was shot while he slept, and it is on film—including the blood-soaked mattress.

What would Fred Hampton, rest his soul, have said about our election?

You can kill a revolutionary, but you can't kill revolution ...

If you ever think about me, and if you ain't gonna do no revolutionary act, forget about me. I don't want myself on your mind if you're not going to work for the people. Like we always said, if you're asked to make a commitment at the age of 20, and you say, I don't want to make a commitment because of the single reason that I'm too young to die ... what you did is, you're dead already. ... If you dare to struggle you dare to win, if you dare not struggle then you don't deserve to win. Let me say peace to you if you're willing to fight for it. I believe that I was born not to die in a car wreck. ... I don't believe I'm going to die slipping on a piece of ice. ... I believe that I'm going to be able to die doing the things I was born for. I believe that I'm going to be able to die high off the people. I believe that I will be able to die as a revolutionary in the international proletarian struggle ...

Why don't you live for the people

Why don't you struggle for the people

Why don't you die for the people ...

He wasn't talking just about blacks, although as a Panther, he helped organize free breakfasts, free medical services and a free six-week educational program for those who wanted to join the party. But Mr. Hampton was talking about all of us who weren't in the elite. Fred Hampton was transcending race and looking at class, at the power structure, and that made him dangerous.

My question is: Where are we now? Do imperialism and democracy really go together?

Can Obama, or any person, contain the pressures of Wall Street? Is the collective will of our country behind barring journalists and humanitarian aid from the Gaza strip?

Black leaders of the '60s understood that we must disengage ourselves from all policies toward all peoples that involve injustice. Does Barack have the courage of his predecessors? Will he honor their struggle? Because without them, he wouldn't be here. Leaders of the '60s used their national prominence to connect the struggles of blacks with the international economic policies of the Untied States, and to advocate for all disenfranchised people, of every race and class. They gave their lives.

That is the change our leaders of the '60s died for, and I, for one, a half-black girl from the southside of Chicago who now lives in Tucson, do not want their deaths to be in vain.

—Denise Cox

Mmm, That Feels Good...

Election night, from 9 to 9:20 p.m., was a series of revelations, realizations and tears for this 40-year-old gay white man.

At first, I was just happy, very happy. I wept from pure joy. I had no idea it was going to be so moving, but it was, fast and full. Then I wept from realizing that come Jan. 20, I could in my mind, somehow, put the last eight years to rest (in a way). Then the revelation that this was a historic election: Mr. Obama is our first African-American president. It moved me to more tears. The idea swept over me that maybe this event, more than any in years, would finally settle a little of the racial tension, and bring us all a little closer to the realization we are the human race.

Then I cried like a baby.

The landslide electoral votes showed me that we, as a concerned group, can only take so much before we get our crap together, and we come together and try to change things. In November 2008, we came together, and we changed things, in such a big way that we left nothing to be denied or questioned. Most of us seem to be on the same page.

After seven to eight years of going through a basic midlife crisis, Sept. 11 and a general numbness from losing my faith in people, on election night, I felt hope, and I felt like I was a part of bringing that hope. I was proud.

And for the first time in a very long time, I smiled.

—Kirk Berlin

Obama is the first presidential candidate I've voted for who has actually won. Not only did I vote; I put cynicism aside and campaigned for Obama. I made phone calls for, attended debate parties and raved about his educational policies on right-wing message boards. Hell, I even read one of his books; it was insightful, articulate, thought-provoking.

Obama's work as a community organizer led me to believe that he would not ignore voices of communities, and might even look at the actual research and take it into account when making decisions.

Obama has promised to give a $4,000 annual credit to use toward college tuition in exchange for community service. I'm sure he'll be unable to fulfill all of his original promises due to our current sinking economy, but I do doubt that he will do what Bush did when he screwed over AmeriCorps. States had 16,000 programs cut to 3,000. He also removed part of the stipends for people who had already signed contracts—so there they were, doing community work for a measly $800 a month, and they didn't even get their college-loan repayment money.

I was impressed with Obama's sincere sense of justice and social responsibility, his thoughtful deliberation, and the possibility that he could help restore our dignity worldwide. I was also heartened by what seemed to be Obama's acceptance of the LGBT community.

So, then what happens? Obama is elected and invites none other than Rick Warren to deliver an invocation at his historic inaugural ceremony.

While overt racism and sexism aren't really tolerated at the moment, comparing gays and lesbians to polygamists, child rapists and those who commit incest is part of "public dialogue." So much for "a change we can believe in"! The honeymoon is over before it began.

—Yael Grauer

My husband and I are counting down the days until Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. Remember that old adage: The leader sets the tone. Well, many of us 300 million Americans are ready for a change in leadership styles.

What a great opportunity to see the politics of cooperation exerted in domestic and foreign spheres. When I was a young political-science major back in the mid-1970s, attending a Jesuit college located in upstate New York, the professors often spoke about the collaborative versus the adversarial uses of political power. Such references seemed dreamlike when I read the assigned texts and poured over the volumes of supplemental historical texts. Today, these cooperative considerations no longer seem naïve, but rather they present our best hope of having a society and world in which everyone's opportunities and experiences can be elevated to a higher, more-just social plane.

In the midst of a severe economic recession, can anyone think of a friend or relative who has not been negatively impacted in some way? Go on the Internet, turn on the TV, or listen to the radio to hear the latest store-closing or a recap of the latest violent incident somewhere around the globe. Hasn't the time come for a paradigmatic shift from a conflict-ridden environment in which every individual stands alone, to a cooperation-filled environment in which all of us can contribute and grow together as a society and a nation?

Years ago, my political-science professors taught us the role of government was to work to improve the quality of life for all its citizens. It's good to see that vision of our nation's political life can be restored during the presidency of Barack Obama.

—Karen Tauber

What'll You Have

Well, America, we have a new spokesmodel, a seemingly intelligent young man of color, and I couldn't be happier with my country for finally getting past that issue.

Due to some silly mistakes made as a young man in my teens and 20s, I have been a sub-citizen since 1989: no vote, no guns, no traveling. I am allowed to pay my taxes, though, so that's a relief. Anyway, I like the guy; am I totally clueless? According to my sources, the guy's an Indonesian-born, Muslim-schooled Antichrist who never showed a real birth certificate. Where is all this crap coming from, and why hasn't anyone looked into this? Or have they, and they're keeping it all hush-hush, like how the president-elect crash-landed his spaceship in Roswell, N.M., back in 1947?

OK, maybe that's pushing it, but some of this stuff is really out there. People are saying, "He's not my president, 'cause I didn't vote for him." Well, I didn't vote for him or anyone else since '89, but they've still all been my presidents. Why? Because I'm an AMERICAN, and that's how it goes here.

I'm almost certain that if there were something amiss, the current administration would've slithered out from an undisclosed rock with the smoking shotgun.

Mr. Obama, if I could vote, you would have mine. I see you as a brash go-getter, with a shark-like way of conducting business when the need presents itself. Good. You're in charge of the greatest nation, the greatest army and the biggest heart. Try not to screw it up, and we'll be praying for you and the family.

—Sonny Jones

Steps 8 and 9, Alcoholics Anonymous:

• Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.

• Make direct amends to such people wherever possible.

Now we know why the asshole stopped drinking. Otherwise, our outgoing president would have 300,000,000 phone calls to make.

—Steve Barancik

The First (Choice) Family

Goodbye to the Access of Evil, exploiters of our survival instinct of fear for eight years. Fear alerts us to danger, and we ignore it at our peril. Multiply fear, and panic takes over. Exploit fear, and hatred emerges. In stepped the Bush Ministration to address our fear. To establish safety at the cost of murder and war crimes. To promote trust at the price of greed. To manipulate fear and divide and conquer the citizenry. Bush the derider overwhelms, confuses and numbs us, in a practice of hatred as an arm of public policy. Gloom and doom.

While we stay alive through fear, we live through Love. A baby's smile. A gold and pink Tucson sunset. Barack Obama's integrity and honor, the content of ... (his) character . There will still be fear and danger on Jan. 20, but we will herald in a new leader. From an academically C-grade president to a constitutional scholar. From a cabal of sound bites and misinformation to the words of a president who pauses to think before he speaks. From the passing of a global market of money and power to the global market of ideas and actions in the service of collective safety. From a bewildered listless, creeping sense of impotence and fear have come a new vigor, hopefulness and feeling of power. (W.E.B. DuBois, Crisis, November 1920.)

—Sol Grossman

What do we know about Obama? Nothing about his ties to Bill Ayers or any mention of his family? Citizenship? And what experience does he have? His experience in the Senate?

I am sad that so many people are putting so much faith in a person they don't know. I have never seen so much news coverage on a president-elect. It is a continual bombardment, and big, huge posters are plastered all over, like in a communist country. People really need to see what he is going to do to our nation before worshipping him and making him out to be royalty.

And to compare him to George Washington?! Please ... he is not even president yet and has done NOTHING for our country.

For the record, half of the nation has respect for President Bush and hates to see him go. He did the best job he could, considering all that the nation went through. Give him a break! Everyone demands our total submission and respect for Obama, but where is the respect for Bush? The conservative Republicans have no voice.

America is in for a rude awakening with Obama. We will soon find out.

—Julie Kern

I do not want to have a beer with President Obama. I don't imagine I'll be invited to the White House, nor do I expect the president to show up at my house some Saturday afternoon for barbecued ribs and Sierra Nevadas.

It is not important to me that the new president is African-American. In a truly post-racial America, it wouldn't matter, and besides, identity politics plays right into the hands of the bigoted right.

I do not expect the beginning of some Golden Age of Liberalism. I hope for simple competence.

The president is not there to represent me. I have a congressional representative for that, and she does a good job most of the time. The president is there to run the federal government; he is the chief executive. I would like this job to be done well.

Please, no more inexperienced political hacks in high government positions, no more "captive" agencies where the regulators come from the industries they're supposed to regulate, no more crackpot economics. I want a secretary of education who believes in education. I want the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the environment. I want the head of the National Parks Service to take care of the national parks. I want tax collectors to collect taxes from everyone, not just those whose taxes are deducted from their paychecks. In short, I want a reality-based government. I want what used to be called "good government."

I don't think this is too much to ask.

—Bill Miller

Attending the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston was a lifelong dream come true. No, I wasn't a delegate, but a reporter covering the confab for a niche newspaper (not the Tucson Weekly).

So who was Barack Obama, this guy with the funny name who would deliver the convention's keynote address and was running for U.S. senator from Illinois? I'd never heard of him.

"There are no red states, no blue states, just the United States," his voice sang out. Obama's words rang true, but his authenticity electrified the crowd.

I hadn't felt so sure about a politician since working for George McGovern during the 1972 presidential campaign, when Watergate hardly made a dent in the mass American psyche.

"Just keep telling the truth," I told him back then.

McGovern was also at the 2004 convention. I found him in the South Dakota delegation and related what I had said 32 years before. He looked me in the eye, took my hand and said, "We lost, but my conscience is clear."

Four years of W., and we hadn't heard the worst of it: his Hurricane Katrina debacle, the trashing of the Constitution and more killing in Iraq.

So there I was that night in July, walking down the street from the Fleet Center to the subway. Obama, smoking a cigarette, was walking, too. Flipping into reporter mode, I blurted out, "Will you ever run for president?"

He chuckled, nearly inhaling his cigarette. Then he replied, saying something like, "I'm not even a senator yet." All I remember is his laughter and his comfortable style. And now, he's the next president of the United States.

—Sheila Wilensky

Barack Obama and Joe Biden: The Change We Need?

My hope is that the change in government will at least begin to turn things around for us in a very aggressive, productive way. One thing you can count on in politics: There will be controversy.

President-elect Obama is stepping into history as the first black president. I have been a Republican for as long as I can remember. This last election, I really was in a quagmire. Although President Bush had a huge following when Sept. 11 happened, his popularity had totally diminished due to what most Americans think was a series of bad decisions.

I almost feel sorry for President-elect Obama. The bucket of worms he is stepping into is enormous, at best; unemployment is high; our economy is the worst since the Great Depression—yet there is a host of optimism buzzing around Washington already.

I changed to the Democratic Party, because America is in need of radical change. I believe that President-elect Obama is sincere, and I hope that the decisions this president will make will be well-informed. I shall pray that this election and change in our government will be "heard 'round the world," that America is ready for change, and that our relationships with the rest of the world shall be sincere.

I will not agree with some of the policies or decisions made by this new, young president. He has got his work cut out for him, and he needs our support if we are to change the state of the country in these challenging times. I will say this: He has my total support, and I am fully aware that mistakes will be made while he "tests the waters." I wish President-elect Obama and his family a great adventure in the White House, and pray that he will be led down the right path by his advisers, because the whole world is watching.

No pressure, Mr. President-elect. No pressure at all.

—Gary W. Halsey Sr.

Dear (not yet born) great grandchild,

I hope this letter finds you well and happy. Given what is going on in this world today, this may not be the case, so I'm writing to apologize for myself and my culture.

Soon, we will have a new leader in the territory we call the United States. This happens every few years, but this time, something extraordinary has happened: People chose someone who talks of change and seems to be aware that we are killing our planet. There is much hope that we will take care of one another and our home planet.

Many knowledgeable people say we have been disrespecting our planet too long, and if we don't stop very, very soon, it will be too late to stop some bad changes. If these changes occur, I can only imagine what life must be like for you—and it makes my heart ache.

In my culture, most people see themselves as separate from the planet. They think it's OK to throw waste around. They think it's OK to destroy vast forests (a forest is a large grouping of trees—plants that grow very tall and give back oxygen, which we then breathe). They think it's OK to burn fuel that pollutes our air and warms our planet.

Some people say the Earth is really our own mother and wonder why people treat their mother this way. This Earth has literally birthed us. Not many hear this.

Oh, grandchild, I hope we will be able to see humans as only one part of this great world, and learn to respect all life. Then this letter will find you enjoying the same pleasures of existence we and our ancestors have enjoyed.

Your great granddad,

—Tom Gibbons
(with a copy to new leader Barack Obama)

I was lucky enough to be born to parents who believed we are all created equal.

My mother and father were true followers of Christ, not that that made us superior to anyone else! My parents' favorite preacher was Martin Luther King Jr. I was born in the tiny town of Urbana, Ohio, and I had never heard the N-word until I moved to Parma, Ohio, an all-white suburb of Cleveland. No one in the neighborhood would speak to us because of our beliefs, so we made friends through the Episcopal Church.

My father died in 1992 at the age of 72, and he was the kindest person I have ever known. My mother died in 2001 at 82. She was one of the strongest people I have ever known, and the bravest. If they had lived to see this day, they would be rejoicing, and they would have never been prouder of the country they both served as Marines in World War II. My husband, Gary, and I never believed we would live to see this day.

I am not so much proud to be an American as I am humbled by the privilege. But on Nov 4, our country made us proud.

—Jane Howell

I have hopes that people will choose to surpass their faults.

On departure of George W. Bush: I am not sad to see him gone, but doubt I would have been sad at the departure of a Democrat.

Look at "Blood for Oil." For decades, revolutionary/socialist regimes in Nigeria, Sudan, etc., have gotten plenty of lucre from oil companies while stomping on the populations. For those decades, little complaint came from people calling themselves progressive. Same as conservatives/neocons ignoring much that was vile in Central and South America.

Many who claim they are opposites share the same mental mechanisms. I recommend Christopher Hitchens' Why Orwell Matters as to the faults of "left" and "right."

On inauguration of Barack Obama: the greatest campaign organization in American history, great crowd of supporters. I hope they continue to be energetic in community leadership, and not dribble away the next years in self-congratulation. In particular, it would be great if they, and those they might encourage, worked in teams as big brothers and sisters for children in neighborhoods and schools. I hope supporters of either side spend less time reassuring themselves how right they are, and instead spend more time in some way bettering their neighborhoods and families.

—Aaron Johnson

Ode to Obama

In Alabama (where I was born) and in most of the "Deep South" (plus many "liberal" areas across the nation), in August 1961 (the month of President-elect Obama's birth) ... this was the time of "WHITES ONLY" signs. The options for "COLORED ONLY":

Movie theaters: balcony seating only, if at all.
Restaurants: takeout only; no seating allowed.
All public restrooms and drinking fountains: separate and segregated.
Housing, sales and rentals: only in the "projects" or the "quarters."
Elected officials, local, state, federal: none.
Voting privileges: Only if uneven "poll taxes" and "literacy tests" were met.
Interracial dating and marriage: forbidden by law.
Radio: separate stations, but thank goodness for the freedom of the AM airwaves!
Two prophets of their times: Bob Dylan sang of "the times, they are a-changin'," and Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream." Boy, did their prophecies come true in November 2008.

At 58, I never thought I'd live to see it, but I did!

—Randy Campbell

Spare Me the Change

FREEDOM, 7/4/1776 to 11/4/2008: If this president-elect sticks to his campaign promises, he will overturn laws in place to keep us prosperous, safe and free. Laws on guns, illegal immigration, gay marriage, abortion and religious freedom are in danger. Overturning and changing some of these laws would make the future of a recognizable America practically disappear.

SPARE ME THE CHANGE: The Democratic Party directly aimed its campaign at first-time voters, the middle class, the unemployed and inner-city youth during a time of economic collapse. The Democrats have taken control almost completely. I'm not going to say they stole it, but I will say: It's paid for.

FIRST TIME VOTERS: Many Barack Obama voters were around 18 years old; this makes them around 11 at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, they have been force-fed lies from the far-left media, and the Democratic Party has told the voters what they wanted to hear. B.O. has also told the voters what his true intentions are: Through books he has written, he has openly admitted that he has been inspired by Marxist and racist leaders.

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA: So what's in a name? Do you call yourself what you want to be known as? To the average Joe, this doesn't matter too much, but to the 57 nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, this brings comfort to know that America's president keeps a middle name highly regarded in the radical Islam world.

—Joey Derise, aka The Hippie Republican

Just for the record, the reason I did not vote for Barack Obama was NOT THAT HE IS BLACK; it was that I did not trust the man. Any man who does not pledge allegiance to the flag or will not wear a flag pin on his jacket is not patriotic or trustworthy.

These are other reasons why I did not vote for Barack Obama:

"I am consistently on record and will continue to be on record as opposing concealed carry." —Chicago Tribune.

"There is an individual right to bear arms, but it is subject to common-sense regulation." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"I think it's a scandal that this president (Bush) did not authorize a renewal of the assault-weapons ban." —Illinois Senate debate versus Alan Keyes.

"I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturer's lobby." —The Audacity of Hope.

For the full story on Barack Obama's record, visit

—Clifford Breidenfeld


I'm not a religious man. I'm not spiritual, nor could I ever be a philosopher. I'm simply a kid, just barely legal, watching the world as I grow up.

I see a lot of change on the horizon. With our 44th president coming into office soon, I see a lot of excitement for liberals and Democrats these next four years. It may seem scary at first for you conservatives, but I see fair treatment of gays and all other misunderstood kinds of people—because what makes this world beautiful is diversity. I see a major depression with the nonsense over in the Middle East and hard times for us taxpayers, but have no fear: History has a tendency to repeat itself, and if anyone can recall that high school class, it's taught us that even the Great Depression couldn't hurt Americans enough to slow our progression. The years will be hard, but with catastrophe, there is beautiful rebirth.

It may seem like a murky future now, but in time, the sun will shine once again, as it always does.

—J.Y. Lanham

On Nov. 4, 2008, America voted and began a political renaissance. It now is estimated that a record 4 million-plus will ascend on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, including myself. It most certainly will be a magical time for young love, new dreams and heartfelt promises.

As the inauguration approaches, the world waits nervously and with necessity on the line. We've had eight years of Texas-sized politics, bigger business and even bigger problems. The wars, the economic downturn and domestic tragedies (like Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina and the Minneapolis bridge collapse) have shown us our lives, howsoever much we believe to be good, may be shaken to unrecognizable lengths unless we do what is right.

It has been reported that President-elect Obama will be sworn in with his right hand on Abe Lincoln's own Bible, and it is an understatement to say much is expected from our new president. Luckily, Barack Obama is a charismatic star in a dark sky, a brilliant ray of hope in a time of need. But as a nation, a society and a people in general, we must take part in the governance of this country and contribute to the well-being of us all.

Obama's success has been mandated by the people. Obama must lead with intelligence, the highest of moral responsibility and, above all, love. For if we love one another, we surely will inherit a better life for all people.

"Change has come," Barack Obama said at his acceptance speech, but I believe more love is on the way.

—Derry J. Beck

I Drove for Change

Alamogordo, N.M., is the sort of place that only a mother could love. At least that's my impression after working four days there for Obama, up to and including Election Day. The White Sands National Monument and the Sacramento Mountains definitely beckoned, but the campaign staff kept us running.

I went with a longtime friend, whose earlier life included home-health nursing in rural Maine, which suited our first day perfectly. We chased down trailer addresses on dirt roads so contradictory that even our trusty GPS, affectionately named "Terry," threw in the towel. That day's triumph included taking Carmella Shinn to the mall on the last day of early voting. At the White Sands Mall, at least 25 people waited in line. Carmella couldn't stand that long with her bad back and bad cough, so we took turns holding her place while she sat.

The campaign headquarters (described by my friend as the opposite of "slick") was a feel-good, diverse place, too—but nonstop hopping. Our leader was Faina Ibragimova. She'd been there four months, from New York, born in Uzbekistan. In the corner was Mette, a Dane, here to work for Obama. When we first got there, we met four ex-Hillary ladies from SaddleBrooke.

All told, we probably knocked on some 200 doors and changed the outcome for maybe 10 people. We met more folks who wouldn't vote or couldn't, like felons, than folks that were undecided. It's humbling and eye-opening to talk to so many people, even briefly, about our country and what needs to change.

I'll end with the night clerk at the Comfort Inn, where we stayed. It was the morning after. I went in for a paper and asked her if she was happy. She smiled and pulled back her jacket to show me her Obama button. She said she was a single mom with two jobs who couldn't get health coverage for the second pregnancy. She said she voted early just to be sure, and couldn't sleep at all the last night for being so happy, full of hope that Obama cared about "people like me." We shared that moment.

—Laurie Jurs

I am not defined by a party. I have grown to dislike the term "independent," because the term has come to be dependent upon the other parties for its own definition. I am, however, painfully honest and believe I can see through bullshit. I am not a "crier" but am subject to being female.

When John Kerry declared that he would not, under any circumstances, relinquish his candidacy until the last vote was counted, and recounted; and that the election would not be stolen from the people of the United States again; and then, the following morning, standing before our "free" press, renounced his bid for the presidency, I cried.

I heard Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention, and watched him maintain integrity through the debates. When he was elected, I wept because I realized it was the first time I had ever known hope when considering the future of our country. Only then did I realize I had become so cynical about our government, so disgusted by our leadership. I experienced a feeling of relief, like the first breath after being underwater for a long, long time. I am still afraid for his safety, for the future of our country, but finally, that fear stems from the power held by the citizenry and not the liberties taken for granted by our government.

Before it was clear that Obama would be elected, I expressed to would-be doubters: "Where people see inexperience, I see fresh perspective." I hope (dare I say "hope"?) he is who we all believe him to be: a real president.

—Lori Reid

Woodstock happened 20 years before I voted in my first election, yet every single presidential campaign, every single political debate, in my lifetime has been about what happened in the 1960s. The problems that we face today have largely been ignored in the dissonant buzz of continued bickering about issues that were settled decades ago: civil rights, women in the workplace, Vietnam, and whether or not Dylan should have gone electric at Newport.

My friend Tony Cani is fond of pointing out that the elections in 2000 and 2004 would have gone the other way had it been up to voters younger than 40. Conversely, he gleefully points out that under such an arrangement, Sen. McCain would only have won four states. While pundits have focused on Obama's race, and there is no denying that his rhetorical style and perspective are a product of his ethnic background, his victory is more importantly about Generation X and its successors finally taking their rightful place in the Great Conversation.

Conservatives who smugly ridicule Obama's oft-repeated theme of "hope" and dismiss him merely as a creature of slick rhetoric conveniently forget that their own canonization of Ronald Reagan is based mostly on what he said, rather than anything he actually did. They themselves have long recognized that words are important. Bush's failures are as much a product of his "us and them" tone as anything else, and Obama's inclusive rhetoric bodes well for a more functional federal government.

Unlike most elections, 2008 really was about change. We rejected not only McCain and his party, but also the tired and destructive rhetoric, on both sides of the political fence, of a previous generation. Obama has an unprecedented opportunity to get great things done for America and the world.

—Tom Prezelski

End of Empire, Beginning of Struggle

The era of American empire has collapsed with the exiting of President George W. Bush, and the age of struggle for sustainability has begun with the "clean" presidential election of Barack Obama.

Bush presided over the biggest economy bubble collapse (not just housing) in our country's history. Nonproductive risk-taking and gambling on financial outcomes has led to the unprecedented revaluing downward of the entire economy. Ignoring ecological and earth science has led us Americans to being responsible for the largest contribution to destabilizing the global climate and depletion of the Earth's finite resources. Bush's war in Iraq has made us more energy insecure rather than more secure. Foreign investors, corporations and nations willing to back trillions in new-dollar creation now determine the future health of America's bankrupt economy.

Not only will Obama be challenged to mediate the forces bent on economic recovery, but by historical convergence, his administration will face the priority challenge of transitioning the whole economy toward sustainability.

The replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy and rebalancing our overly consumptive culture are necessary if we are to successfully adapt to global environmental change.

During this current transition, we in Tucson are as vulnerable as any other region highly dependent on growth. The need for people and organizations to begin a real community conversation on a sustainable future has never been more critical than now.

—Bob Cook, co-founder and core team member of Sustainable Tucson

An Invocation for Change 01-20-09

Dear GOD,

Today, let us come together as a country as we inaugurate our 44th president of these "United" States.

Provide him with the strength and ability to serve us well. Give him wisdom to know that which is right, patience to deal with that which is wrong, and the ability to know the difference.

May he be a compassionate person who does not forget those who suffer or have been left behind, and that every child is provided with basic medical care as well as the best education we can offer.

The days ahead, Lord, are going to be tough as we try to amend the mistakes of yesterday, but give us, as a country, the Hope to believe that once again, we can be a nation of pride and respect not just amongst ourselves, but in the world community at large. Once again, may we be the leaders of freedom, bringing peace to the far reaches of the globe.

Today, we don't inaugurate the first Negro, or black, or African-American president, but rather, we inaugurate a man who represents all the colors of America—red, white and blue.

For we are one country of people, who come from many other countries and worship many gods, yet we are still one.

Lord, on this historic day, remember our fellow Americans overseas fighting to protect the values we deem precious. Help President Obama find the words and guidance to bring these heroes home to enjoy the freedoms we share here on our shores.

The future will be difficult for all of us, Lord, but we know that tough times never last, but tough people do. Help President Obama to be tough, knowing we are behind him and will walk the path together, the same path walked by Jefferson, Lincoln and the others before him. Let us accept the change that has come and bless us today and tomorrow. Amen.

—Matt Welch

An Astrologer's View of the President-Elect

To understand Barack Obama, consider the energy and investigations of Aquarius and Libra. Aquarius excels at detached-witness consciousness, employing the eagle's overview of the human experience in service characterized by democratic idealism. Seeing the big picture, Aquarius is able to remain healthily detached in its inherent commitment to facilitating humanity's most egalitarian expression. This is the directional flow of Obama's soul in this lifetime, as well as his fastest path to enlightened self-actualization, and it is being activated now and throughout 2009 by Jupiter's position in the night sky.

Moreover, expressing Libra is the sacred work of Obama's current life intent. Libra investigates balance and moderation and advocates for what is just and fair. A natural mediator, Libra excels at giving equal weight to all sides of an issue, and creates harmonious environments so that it can flourish in service to all points of view. The composite Aquarian and Libran energies Obama hosts and engages may afford him a presidency of unprecedented inclusion and progressive democracy. We are blessed.

Furthermore, we have witnessed Obama's Sun and Mercury in Leo; he is not only comfortable but often radiant in the spotlight, a natural leader and effective speaker who exudes an inspiring and contagious charisma.

Naturally, every light has its shadow, and the dark sides of Aquarius, Libra and Leo can include detachment to the point of aloof ineffectiveness, indecision and excessive pride. To avoid these missteps, and to realize the best expressions of these energies his soul has contracted to host, Obama will need us. He will need to facilitate a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Whether you are an active part of his team or you simply say a prayer for him every day, people, get ready. Indeed, we are the change we seek, and we have been blessed with an ideal leader to that end.

—Kathryn Morgan, shamanic astrologer

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