A Wasted (Dwindling) Opportunity

Who is this Barack Obama, who keeps appearing on my TV; spouting words of change and hope in this beautiful land of the free? It really would be a change if he wins despite the decent; you see, Barack Obama is running for President.  Now, this may not sound much like change, if your knowledge of history is slack; but the fact of the matter in point, is this man Obama is Black.

These are the words extracted from a poem that I wrote in 2008 before President Obama was elected. I would be lying if I said that I thought that he had a snowball’s chance in h_ _ _ of winning because I did not think that I would be alive long enough to see an African American President of the United States of America.

The fact is that I was a struggling author and poet trying to get some publicity and name recognition so that I could get someone other than family to read my poems and books. I felt like I had something meaningful and worthwhile to share with others that would encourage and uplift them and hoped that my poem would open some doors for me to accomplish that purpose.

Consequently, I took that poem and a tape of my interpretation of it to a number of local television stations – along with a letter telling them how they could contact me, and tried to peddle it as news. I assume that none of them viewed it as such because no one ever contacted me.

Don’t get me wrong, I was extremely proud that a talented, dedicated, and well qualified African American was running for President even if I didn’t believe that he had a chance to win. I could not help but to recall when Reverend Jesse Jackson had run in 1988.  He failed.  Then, later on during the process of the 2008 Presidential election, Reverend Jackson allegedly made a very unflattering comment about then candidate Obama when he thought that all microphones had been turned off.

This angered me because, by this time, I had begun to think that candidate Barack Obama actually stood a chance of winning; although, in my mind, it was only slightly above that of a snowball’s chance in h_ _ _. He won!  An African American with an African father and a White mother had actually become President of the United States of America!

My Point? What has happened to us as a people?  Here we have a Black man who was raised by a White mother and White grandparents who was exposed to the White privilege side of life and surely, at times, treated like the Black underclass from the time that he was born until the time that he was elected President.  Who could better understand and empathize with both White concerns and Black concerns?

What have we done with this opportunity thus far to grow the understanding and cooperation among White Americans and people of color and grow our country? Nothing!

Why is this the case? It is because politicians will be politicians.  They are hardwired to play politics so that is what they do.  This is just as much – if not more so, the fault of voters as it is that of politicians.  We have not lived up to our responsibility as voters.  We must take this responsibility more seriously and hold all of our elected leaders accountable for how they govern.  We are their constituents and we can determine whether or not they keep their job.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not determined by where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Too many politicians seem to have flipped the script where these words of Dr. King are concerned.  Their actions demonstrate a paraphrase of them. Their mantra appears to be that “the ultimate measure of a politician is not determined by where they stand in times of challenge and controversy, but where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience.”

If given the opportunity, President Obama can go a long way toward fixing our problem with divisiveness of all variety and lay the foundation for Presidents who follow to continue to work to mitigate or totally expunge it. He has already demonstrated this attribute through his willingness to oppose his own party by being open to negotiate on issues the Democratic Party and its constituents hold sacred.  The door of opportunity is still open but it is rapidly closing…

Change and Hope. The majority of those who voted in the 2008 Presidential election were truly inspired by these words and they were the mantra of candidate Barack Obama’s campaign.  Virtually everyone who supported him believed that if elected, change and hope would be inevitable.  In all of our excitement, we forgot about the politics of governance so failed to anticipate the angst that an African American President would generate among the people and fellow lawmakers in the opposing Party.

Notwithstanding, all of us – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – still have the opportunity to help the President to accomplish this goal of change and hope and move forward with the agenda of the preponderance of the electorate. We should do this.

Although I am a lifelong Democrat and want to see my side win because I believe that we have the winning message; I would much rather that our collective voice be heard and acted upon accordingly than to see the will of either Party forced upon the people that they are supposed to represent.

Eulus Dennis – author, Operation Rubik’s Cube and Living Between The Line