Shamik Das

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

“I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...”


“I, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States; So help me God.”

With those fateful, fumbled words, Barack Obama staggered over the finish line to become the 44th President of the United States of America to the delirium of literally billions around the world.

Those few minutes after noon on January 20, 2009, on the steps of the Capitol in Washington DC, were laced with so much history, pride and emotion that one could forgive the new President and the Chief Justice their minor stumble, which no doubt drew a wry smile from Obama’s gaffe-prone predecessor, the now ex-President Bush.

History was made not only because Obama was the first African-American to become the president of the United States, but because the people of America and in all four corners of the globe were made to listen to a man who spoke with a rare clarity, honesty and compassion.

In short, a new kind of politician, pledged to ending the spiral of corruption, nepotism and greed that so marred the past eight years, a public servant unique in more ways than one, not just because he’s black, but because he’s, well, different; one could easily imagine a white man with the same vision performing as brilliantly.

And in so doing, in succeeding George W Bush, his messages of hope and change, his beliefs in the power of positivity, have ensured that he has indeed been judged not by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character, fulfilling the dream of Dr Martin Luther King, whose 90th birthday fell this inauguration week.

Real change will of course take a while, and it is to be hoped that he will be afforded sufficient time to make good his promises, though he’s made quite a start already, cleaning up Washington with a tightening of the rules governing lobbyists and a pledge to bring in “a new era of openness”.

On foreign policy too he has got into gear, acting swiftly to halt the trials of suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in advance of its eventual closure early this year, and telephoning world leaders – most notably Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas – to discuss the Gaza conflict.


There are even reports circulating that he may speak to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in his efforts to reach out to the Arab states, unthinkable under President Bush, and he could even sanction covert talks with Hamas.

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect; to those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy,” said Obama in his Inaugural Address, reaching out the hand of friendship after delivering a very clear warning to America’s enemies earlier in his speech.

“We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken – you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

The economic downturn also featured prominently in his address, the new President pledging to do all in his power to re-energise the country and get the world’s most powerful economy working again.

Billions more would have to be spent, he insisted, hundreds of billions of dollars essential to kick-start the US economy, his performance on which, after all, will determine more than any other factor, more than Iraq, terror or the Middle East, whether he wins re-election in three-and-three-quarter years’ time.

The oration may not have been his greatest, the promises not his grandest, but one thing’s for sure, everyone, every man, woman and child, irrespective of race, religion and place of origin, will be hoping he succeeds, for a failing US means a failing world; less wealth trickling down, fewer jobs in our own economy, and an America more insular, more Right-wing, and more and more likely to lurch further to the extremes.

Can he do it? Yes he can!

November 4th 2008: Election day
November 5th: Victory day!


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