Thursday, April 2, 2015

That positive Obama example

President Barack Obama joins First Lady Michelle Obama on stage for a surprise visit during the Kids' State Dinner in the East Room of the White House, July 18, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer column | 30 March 2015

The officials who will be in charge of guest lists for the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama to Jamaica will certainly not be able to accommodate the many who wish to meet the great man. Therefore, let us be content to enjoy his writings and be grateful that our Maker has provided an outstanding role model for the people of the African Diaspora.

I will never forget the eyewitness account of the Inauguration of Mr Obama by my brother-in-law William Beard Jr, captured in my column of January 26, 2009.

William Beard Jr
"I was absolutely taken by the moment,” said Bill Beard. “For me it was a bookend, taking me back to that day in 1963 when relatives from all over America gathered at our house in DC, then set out with my parents to march with Martin Luther King Jr. They kept me home because they did not know if it would have been dangerous. I had seen on television marchers being beaten, attacked by dogs and knocked down by water cannons. What a far way we have come - on Tuesday I was heading to the Mall with my 13-year-old daughter, to witness the swearing-in of the first African-American president!

"You should have seen the Mall - a wonderful spirit pervaded. People knew they were being called to a higher level of behaviour. They were helping and checking on each other, laughing, sharing stories, making each other feel comfortable. The one reason was the man, Barack Obama, who was taking the Oath of Office. They wanted him to see that they could pattern the behaviour this extraordinary leader exemplified.”

In the close-ups of Barack and Michelle Obama at those 10 inaugural balls, we agreed that they impressed us with their lack of pretense, that they are truly a loving couple, very comfortable in their skin. Bill noted of their children Malia and Sasha, "When your children so readily embrace what you espouse, respect and decency, they are redefining what an American family is, at a time when family was becoming unravelled."

Bill commented, "Obama is a man sent for this moment, just as Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt were, in their time. History will place him up there with them. This is divine order, a gift from God in so many ways.”

If Barack Obama's life had been a movie script, we would have probably said it was too unrealistic. How could his parents have met in Hawaii, the same place that the black/white young couple met in that movie classic “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner”, starring Sidney Poitier? How could these brilliant individuals — one from Kenya and one from Kansas — produce an even more brilliant son, who would become the first ever African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review?

The marriage of his parents dissolved when he was a toddler and his mother Ann Dunham remarried Indonesian Lolo Soetero, taking young Barack to live with his stepfather in that Asian country. Ann awakened her seven-year-old son early every day to keep his English strong and resonant, playing inspiring recordings. The voice she played to young Barry over and over again: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

When on May 4, 2011, Barack Obama announced that the leader of the dreaded Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US Navy Seals, this column referred to the description of him by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "The personal character is clear: this is a man with steel in every part of him."  Obama's subsequent visit to the site of the bombing of the twin towers in New York City and the New York Fire Department which had lost over 300 firefighters, gave closure to a horror story that had haunted the entire world.

Barack Obama and his close-knit family have shown us how hard work, high achievement, and righteousness took them to the most prestigious address in the world. Can we work to promote this kind of leadership for Jamaica? Yes we can!

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