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An Obama Presidency; Hero or Pied Piper?

 By Tony Medley

 As a Reagan Independent, I view the election of Barack Obama as a possible breath of fresh air for the serious problems that permeate the family life of America's blacks. Ronald Reagan, who is the only political hero of my lifetime, opened up Washington to a non-political way of getting things accomplished. He wasn’t a Washington politician and he had a core set of values. The results? Ending the Cold War without a shot and reinvigorating an economy that Jimmy Carter had eviscerated and left for dead. Unfortunately, Reagan’s legacy was devastated by George Herbert Walker Bush, whose first act as President was to purge all Reaganites from his Administration.

 Barack Obama stands on the threshold of history. He is articulate, the most inspirational speaker to become President since JFK. Nobody knows what his core values are. It’s possible that all the leftwing stuff that has been attributed to him constitute just a Machiavellian way to achieve power. Regardless, he can truly make a difference in one of the most troubling aspects of American society. During the campaign, he made a statement that blacks have to be responsible. While it’s difficult to pin Obama down at this stage of his career, this seems to align him with Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, Ward Connerly, and Shelby Steele, who argue that blacks have to be responsible for their lives and not depend on government largesse. To date, they have been voices crying in the wilderness, drowned out by demagogues like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who have subverted the Civil Rights Movement, converting it into an industry of whine for their livelihoods, indeed for their raison d’ętre.

If there are civilian heroes in our society today it is the black women, impregnated and abandoned by irresponsible males, who birth their children, raise them, and support them alone with little or no help from the men who impregnated them. These are mothers to be loved, but their babies grow up fatherless. This is one of the primary basic problems with black society that Cosby, Sowell, Connerly, and Steele constantly address, but which Jackson and Sharpton and their cohorts ignore.

 Obama flung down his gauntlet on July 14, 2008 in a speech to the 99th Annual Convention of the NAACP on the need for black fathers to take responsibility for the children they sire. Here’s what he said:

I know that Thurgood Marshall did not argue Brown versus Board of Education so that some of us could stop doing our jobs as parents. And I know that nine little children did not walk through a schoolhouse door in Little Rock so that we could stand by and let our children drop out of school and turn to gangs for the support they are not getting elsewhere. That's not the freedom they fought so hard to achieve. That's not the America they gave so much to build. That's not the dream they had for our children.

That's why if we're serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families, and our own communities. That starts with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV, and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework, and setting a good example. It starts with teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth; and teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; that what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one. It starts by being good neighbors and good citizens who are willing to volunteer in our communities - and to help our synagogues and churches and community centers feed the hungry and care for the elderly. We all have to do our part to lift up this country.

That's where change begins. And that, after all, is the true genius of America - not that America is, but that America will be; not that we are perfect, but that we can make ourselves more perfect; that brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand, people who love this country can change it. And that's our most enduring responsibility - the responsibility to future generations. We have to change this country for them. We have to leave them a planet that's cleaner, a nation that's safer, and a world that's more equal and more just.

This is exactly what Cosby, Sowell, Connerly, and Steele have been saying for years. Jesse Jackson, however, was enraged, calling it "Talking down to black people,” while suggesting that Obama needed an operation on his genitals. As Steele commented, “Normally, ‘black responsibility’ is a forbidden phrase for a black leader -- not because blacks reject responsibility, but because even the idea of black responsibility weakens moral leverage over whites. When Mr. Obama uses this language, whites of course are thankful. Black leaders seethe.”

Steele continues, “Thomas Sowell, among many others, has articulated the power of individual responsibility as an antidote to black poverty for over 40 years. Black thinkers as far back as Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington have done the same. Why then, all of a sudden, are blacks willing to openly embrace this truth -- and in the full knowledge that it will weaken their leverage with whites?

“I think the answer is that Mr. Obama potentially offers them something far more profound than mere moral leverage. If only symbolically, he offers nothing less than an end to black inferiority. This has been an insidious spiritual torment for blacks because reality itself keeps mockingly proving the original lie. Barack Obama in the Oval Office -- a black man governing a largely white nation -- would offer blacks an undreamed-of spiritual solace far more meaningful than the petty self-importance to be gained from moral leverage.

“But white Americans have also been tormented by their stigmatization as moral inferiors, as racists. An Obama presidency would give them considerable moral leverage against this stigma.”

Obama can redirect the ambitions of blacks. He can rescue the Civil Rights movement for blacks and put it back on the track that Martin Luther King intended when he said he dreamed of an America that judged people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. He can stop referring to blacks as “African Americans,” and accept that they are Americans, pure and simple. He stands as a primary example of someone who didn’t depend on government handouts and charity to get ahead. He came from nowhere to be elected President of the United States and the fact that his skin was black was no impediment.

I hope that his speech before the NAACP was more than just rhetoric, and I have to believe that it was, because that wasn’t the place where such language could be conceived as popular. I have to believe that Obama really meant what he said. If he did, he could be leading the nation into a bright new future of racial harmony. However, the proof is in the pudding. Obama has said he's a healor and wants to reach out. If he reaches out to Messrs. Cosby, Sowell, Connerly, and Steele we'll know he's an honest man who means what he says. If not, then he it will be more proof that he's the pied piper of Hamelin, and that will be more than just sad for our country.

 November 9, 2008