- Humanities blog - https://humanities.blogs.ie.edu -

America Awakens: How Barack Obama will revive the American Dream

By: Felicia Appenteng [1], Wesleyan University, Class of 2007. External Relations Coordinator of the IE School of Arts & Humanities.

One of the first poems that I memorized as a child was Langston Hughes [2]‘, "I, too, Sing America." [3] This poem is as short as it is powerful. It describes an African-American man who in spite of terrible discrimination, believes that he is a true part of America and knows that one day the very people who treat him poorly will one day see his beauty and embrace their shared humanity. Langston Hughes’ ability to see beyond oppression and to find beauty in the American dream is what makes his work extraordinary. In this poem, I see a perfect illustration of the magnificence of the Obama candidacy; America being held accountable to its ideals and in doing so will become the true America as envisioned by its greatest intellects and artists.

All Americans carry a vision of America in their minds. In my mind, I see a great nation struggling to be true to itself. When America has slipped and erred, it has betrayed the extraordinary power of its ideals and all true patriots have been disappointed. In the past eight years, America’s domestic policies favored the wealthy. We began an illegal war which has destroyed lives and cultures. We remained only observers to the genocide of Darfur. We abandoned our sick and our poor in Hurricane Katrina. We allowed for the use of torture which has empowered our enemies and weakened us. America has turned its back on its ideals. We nearly lost ourselves in a sea of fear, hatred and ignorance.

The candidacy of John McCain and Sarah Palin sought to use the very things that divide people – hatred, ignorance, xenophobia – to terrify the American electorate into voting Republican. Eventually, even many Republicans became disgusted. John McCain, for all of his honorable service to our country and his legislative achievements has allowed himself to represent everything which he supposedly despised. This is not America, believes Barack Obama and his supporters, We’re better than that.

Sarah Palin, who for all of her ambition and ability to connect with crowds, represents everything about current politics that has gotten us into our current identity crisis. She is divisive, arrogant and anti-intellectual. Having disdain for intelligence, diversity, progress is not American.

Eleanor Roosevelt [4] once said "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." This is an excellent way to cut through to the substance of any politician. While John McCain and Sarah Palin have spent the past few weeks sputtering foolishness about Joe the Plumber, Bill the Terrorist, and Jeremiah the Preacher, Obama has been steadily spreading his message about the need for Americans to be responsible, proactive, sacrifice and how his presidency would allow them to do so. The idea that a hard working American could go bankrupt having to pay medical bills is disgraceful. Under Barack Obama, all Americans would have access to an affordable health plan, while John McCain’s health care plan simply attempts to apply the free market no regulation policies which have been ever so successful on Wall Street. Obama will bring Americans health care, a tax plan which favors the middle class, and a sensible and responsible environmental policy. John McCain’s tax plan is a continuation of the Bush/Cheney tax plan which gives large tax breaks to big corporations and wealthy individuals. Giving super wealthy Americans a financial goody bag at the expense of hard working middle class Americans is not patriotic; it is simply selfish and irresponsible. In Barack Obama’s plan, I see the true American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is not the job of the government to provide for the happiness and well being of its citizens, but to create the conditions so that all of its citizens have the opportunity to pursue them.

Obama’s intellectual capacity is what first attracted me to his candidacy. The ability to carefully weigh decisions while acknowledging and appreciating all perspectives is essential in making the right decision. This flyboy "fly by the seat of my pants" decision making is as dangerous and irresponsible as it is flawed. Over the course of the campaign, much has been made about Obama rhetorical abilities and his ability to inspire. His opponents have criticized his big rallies and powerful speeches as mere celebrity. Anyone who thinks that America doesn’t need a leader with the extraordinary ability to inspire must not be thinking of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK, and RFK. Under inspiring leaders, America has been at its best.

One last reason I support Obama is a bit non-traditional, but for me is crucial in weighing a man’s character. Michelle Obama [5] is wonderful. She is brilliant, self-made, hardworking, eloquent, a devoted wife and mother, and above all she speaks her mind. I have always believed that a man who is truly strong will have an equally strong partner. When I look at Michelle Obama, I see the style of Jacqueline Kennedy with the substance and grit of Eleanor Roosevelt. America has very serious problems that require very serious solutions and Barack’s marriage to Michelle shows me that he is not afraid of challenge, but embraces it. Many comparisons have been made between Obama and FDR, I not only agree with these comparisons, but I also believe that Michelle Obama could be the Eleanor Roosevelt of the 21st century.

I voted for Barack Obama because the story of his success is what has made America great. He will make America greater.