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Obama builds hope, not just here – globally

Guest Writer
Guest Opinion

I loved the image Barack Obama projected abroad, though I could have gone without the scene wherein our troops in Iraq stood wide-eyed listening to him say, in so many words, “You don’t have much longer to stay, but you just might end up shooting and ducking and covering your behinds in Afghanistan someday.”

The president assumes organizations like al-Qaida and the Taliban will just surrender to our massive power, lick their wounds, run away and abandon their fiendish schemes along with the ripe supple virgins that frolic in their dreams.

There have to be other ways to monitor what our enemies are pursuing.

Oh, but what a boost Obama gave to our sons and daughters in uniform. And putting my thoughts of war aside, I saw his trip abroad as quite the ride.

I’ll forever envision him flashing that killer smile, knocking fists and grabbing and slapping hands with dignitaries and ordinary people. His was the trip of our times. And it didn’t come a minute too soon.

We’ve desperately needed a president to recognize and apologize for our past bad behavior as a nation, and he did just that.

As he shared how he forsook the torturing of our perceived and real enemies, and as he acknowledged our shameful days of slavery and repression of Native Americans, people could not help but feel his passion, his love and concern for all people.

Is there a more hopeful sight than that of the leader of the free world reaching across a multitude of cultural divides, embracing Jews, Christians and Muslims, and encouraging young people to create the changes needed to build bridges to understanding? I think not.

There are those who see Obama in a different light, though, viewing him as one with more style than substance.

“People already liked Obama; that’s nothing new,” said Thomas Donnelly, a resident fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “The president already had the world’s good will, but he has yet to translate that into action for the public good, especially on the security issue.”

Donnelly spends too much time at large tables in think tanks with people like himself – those, I imagine, have little to no experience in reaching out to a diverse humanity with open hearts and souls.

Such people, I’d venture to say, seek quick answers, failing to realize that solving complex social and political problems requires substantive good-spirited, well-intentioned approaches that could take years.

The accomplishments of the great civil rights movement certainly weren’t earned in a few weeks.

No, there isn’t a magic wand to instantly wave away the effects of a past administration’s refusal to try to understand and care about our planet and its pressing needs.

Nothing can immediately wipe away the horror of our kids having been sent off to “Shock and Awe.”

Repairing the damage to the economy caused by the criminal actions – aka “playing by the rules” – of a bunch of rich, powerful and greedy shysters will be like a ship ride on choppy uncharted waters.

Easing the minds of a world that has looked on as our nation sponsored the torturing of prisoners is not an episode of “Dr. Phil.”

The deep wounds felt by so many as a result of our country’s lackadaisical response to Hurricane Katrina also are still fresh and open.

But these major blunders contributed to something truly wonderful. They awakened a sleeping electorate and delivered us a president who is more than up to the challenge of turning this thing around.

Some people get it. Emre Erdogan, the head of a Turkish research firm, says Obama’s message of change is resonating with Turkish youth.

“Turkish young people are not optimistic about their lives,” he says. “They are looking for a sense of confidence and security in their lives. Obama gives them hope.”

Nothing translates into action for the public good more than giving people hope, especially young people.

And Obama has brought that hope before the eyes of the world, both stylishly and substantively. Our charge is to resist what divides us and help him keep that hope alive. For however long it takes.

Tucson native Ernie McCray retired in San Diego after 37 years as a teacher and principal.

He is a graduate of Tucson High School and was a University of Arizona basketball star who set records in the 1950s. His UA single-game scoring record of 46 points on Feb. 6, 1960, still stands.

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