PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
Shonisani Tshisikule
 
Comments: 4
Article views: 219
 
 
 

Barack Obama

12 June 2014, 11:08


Photo courtesy of i.huffpost.com

      

Ever the consummate orator, the standing ovation came as no surprise to anyone remotely familiar with his considerable verbal exploits. It was at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts when he was still just a senator from Chicago, Illinois that his ability to deliver a riveting speech catapulted him into the imagination of skeptic and admirer alike.


Only this time he was not in the U.S. and he was no longer a senator. He was the 44th president of the United States and the occasion was the memorial service of one the greatest statesmen to ever grace the surface of the earth, Nelson Mandela. When Barack Obama rose to deliver his speech at the memorial service, the sense of expectation was palpable amongst not only those who were present inside Johannesburg's F.N.B stadium, but even amongst the millions glued to their television sets around the world.


It was fitting that Obama who shares the distinction of being the first black president with Nelson Mandela, was present to deliver such a glowing tribute to his elder statesman. History will certainly mark both men for their contribution towards the ongoing erosion of bitter interracial discord. Yet as it stands it is hard not to observe that the fortunes of the younger statesman have lost a sizable amount of the lustre that marked his initial foray into the U.S. national political establishment.


It was in particular his presidential candidacy propelled by a rousing campaign infused with hope that won hearts all over the world. "Yes we can", reverberated back and forth in all four corners of the globe. People who would have never given an iota of their time to American politics became overnight pundits, particularly here in South Africa given our shared history of racial oppression and black disenfranchisement.


In a land that once embraced slavery and systematic subjugation of blacks, the symbolism of a black American president was seen as a sign of shifting racial attitudes marking a new realm of possibility. A realm that quite frankly many black people never imagined they would see in their lifetimes. It was not just simply the possibility of a black White House incumbent that stirred the soul at the time, but of a capable black man ascending to the highest political office on merit and not as a token served up for window dressing.


If the tough democratic primaries that pit Obama against a surprisingly caustic Hillary Clinton do not attest to that, then certainly the presidential race proper against those self-proclaimed mavericks John McCain and then neophyte Sarah Palin provided ample proof that Barack Obama's ascent to the White House was hard fought and well earned.


What he achieved through his presidential campaign was to move people with his apolitical message of hope and change. He seemed to transcend politics in a way that few would imagine a politician doing. Even the potentially fatal scandal regarding the contentious ramblings of his pastor Reverend Wright could not derail his campaign. Instead of the looming catastrophe that was predicted by many political analysts at the time, it merely afforded him yet another opportunity to weave his narrative into a broader historical context.




The aftermath of his response to the scandal by way of a landmark speech on race relations in America, felt like destiny summoning a leader to his rightful place at the summit. Such was the impact of his campaign and his message that less than a year into his presidency he was, to the surprise of many, awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009. Even the Nobel Committee was on his bandwagon, particularly after another important speech that he delivered in Cairo in June of 2009 aimed at the "Muslim world".


Unfortunately the danger when a politician conjures the wherewithal to transcend politics is that sooner or later we are rudely reminded that it is after all, a politician of whom we speak. Whilst there is no doubt much to be said about his administration from a domestic perspective it his foreign policy posture that draws the bulk of the attention from those residing beyond America's boundaries.


This was a man who had been expected to undo the damage done by George W. Bush with respect to American foreign policy. Amongst other things, he had promised to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and withdraw American military forces from Iraq. Guantanamo Bay is still open and that promise has not been fulfilled. In fairness however, the failure to effect its closure is largely due to a series of political and legal impediments rather than unwillingness on the president's part.


The withdrawal from Iraq was concluded in 2011 and in Afghanistan the U.S. has scaled down its forces with plans for a withdrawal of combat troops ostensibly in place. The abrasive war mongering rhetoric synonymous with the Bush administration has been dispensed with. Considering just these few points you would almost be tempted to give Obama a significant degree of credit with respect to his administration's foreign policy, but that would be too hasty.


The man who made us all hope for a better world with politicians who stand for something loftier than "politics as usual" is also responsible for the expansion of America's program of perpetrating extrajudicial killings using unmanned remotely operated drones. "Change is coming to America", he was wont to proclaim during those heady days of his presidential campaign.


Those proclamations, set against the back drop of a hugely unpopular war that had thrown Iraq into chaos alluded in part to a change in foreign policy that would see Obama reverse the damage left in the wake of Bush's bloody forays into Middle East. Sure, callous rants such as those of Donald Rumsfeld glorifying the illegal widespread bombing and maiming of Iraqi citizens as "shock and awe" have been hugely curtailed. However in their stead we now have slick and astute deliveries that mask the bitter plain truth beneath a veil of political finesse.


When it comes to engaging those America unilaterally categorizes as enemies, the only difference between George W Bush and Barack Obama is like the difference between either choosing to hack someone repeatedly to death with a blunt knife, or blasting their brains out with a single shot from a high caliber sniper rifle a long distance away.The latter seems quick, less brutal and less personal but the consequence is exactly the same.


It is hard to imagine how one could explain to a devastated mother in Yemen, exactly how a man ordering strikes to which she lost a daughter as collateral damage gets to be the bearer of a Nobel prize for peace. As ordered by the commander in chief, president Obama, what basically happens is some people get together in a room and make a decision on who gets to die without due process.


When the "high value target" has been identified he or she is simply executed and they move on to the next one. Needless to say with the kinds of powerful weapons these drones are armed with, civilian casualties are inevitable. Many women, children, and innocent men have lost their lives this way. Their deaths will never be officially acknowledged and for them there will be no compensation and no justice.


Under president Obama the use of drones has gained such a lot of traction that a picture of his administration can never be painted without a drone somewhere in there. The unprecedented utilisation of drones will always be a part of his legacy. It is a far cry from the man who sought a new beginning in America's engagement with the Middle East in that speech in Cairo back in 2009.


In light of all the developments throughout the tenure of America's first black president, it is hard to imagine that he is unaware of just how in the eyes of many, the rarefied narrative that he so eloquently presented has taken a massive hit. It was hardly surprising therefore on that day of Nelson Mandela's memorial service that he said the following: 


"Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President."  


"And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man."  


There was much to discern in that speech, but in addition to veiled swipes at despotic regimes around the world, and a moving tribute to a man who was as close to a saint as a politician could ever be, there was perhaps something else to take away from Obama's words.


That is, he is only too aware of his own failings. Throughout the speech he came across as a man who recognizes that in the greater scheme of things he has yet to fulfill the towering expectations the world has of him. Especially when one considers that he is responsible through the power of his own rhetoric for the creation of those expectations in the first place.


In the broader scheme of things maybe there is still an opportunity for him to carve out a destiny that is unencumbered by complex and often ugly demands of high political office. Currently with egg on their face, perhaps the Nobel committee’s 2009 decision to award him the prize for peace with his presidency still in its infancy might yet prove a stroke of prescience.


Looking beyond his second term as president, perhaps once the political straight-jacket of being the Washington incumbent has been stripped away the world might yet be reacquainted with the man who once upon a time made us hope and made us believe in a better world.   

"Yes We Can".


Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Lion87
A Letter to Danny Jordaan

The administration are so incompetent it makes the ANC seem like the excellence of the Swiss!  Read more...

12 comments 1386 views
Traveller from Kasi

Let’s just face it, travelling can be a bliss. Read more...

7 comments 256 views
Submitted by
Larry
International law is not a suicid...

Reason will apportion blame where it belongs. Only the children of Gaza are innocent and their blood is on Hamas’s hands.  Read more...

27 comments 563 views
Submitted by
Samantha Corbett
What does a book mean to you?

The right to literacy and the right to education should be fundamental pillars for every society. Books represent many things, but at their core, they’re a powerful medium for education and the growth and distribution of knowledge Read more...

2 comments 145 views
Submitted by
Reflect 014
Is this Middle Ages Plague stagin...

In addition to the ongoing spread and efforts to contain the Ebola virus there has been a re-emergence of a middle-ages bacterial disease known as Bubonic plague. Read more...

13 comments 376 views
Submitted by
MIcheal Rhodes
Dear South Africa, being black do...

I have read a plethora of comments on this site with one underlying message; black people in general are incompetent. Dear South Africa that could not be further from the truth.  Read more...

70 comments 1733 views

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on your iPhone Get News24 headlines on your iPhone.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

Calais Website keywords automated by OpenCalais.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2014 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.