Tuesday, January 27, 2009

EPILOG - Letters To A Lost Nation - The Triumph of Barack Obama - The Next Chapter

January 26th, 2009

My Dear America:

It is a week after the Inauguration of Barack Obama to be The President Of The United States. Barack has hit the ground running and has already begun the process of change in our country. He has started the process of closing the Guantanamo Bay Torture and Humiliation Center. He has also begun the process of reaching out the hand of friendship to countries like Iran and has even done a filmed interview with the El Arabiya Television network. He is pushing hard to have his 825 Billion Dollar Stimulus Package approved by the United States Congress as soon as humanly possible. He has taken the forward looking step of traveling across town to jawbone personally with hesitant Republican legislators in favor of the massive spending bill. He is doing what he can but the hard truth is he has problems to deal with that are just as massive as his Stimulus Bill. Some problems he can deal with quickly but there are certainly problems that are going to take a long time to deal with if, indeed, they can be dealt with at all.

While he has incredibly difficult problems of all kinds to deal with he now has to deal with Right Wing Loudmouth Talk Show Hosts like Rush Limbaugh, who has made the statement that he wants Barack Obama to fail. Rush is out there by himself right now looking like a jackass but I am sure that he won't be out there alone for long. Rush has nothing to lose by making incredibly controversial statements like that. He might lose some Republican fans who have come over from the Dark Side to spend some time loving their Country, Right or Left. Outside of that, however, Rush may love to be driven off the air by hostile lefties and go out in a blaze of Right Wing Glory retiring to Florida where he can spend some his hundreds of millions on his favorite drugs. But as incendiary as Rush Limbaugh tends to be, he needs to be left on the air unless, of course, he is arrested for illegal drug possesion again. But if he is not arrested for drugs he needs to be left alone in his padded radio booth ranting on as if he knew what he was talking about. Yes, Rush Limbaugh is a senseless lunatic but he is free, rich, white and on the air in America. What that means is that just like I have certain protections regarding what I can write and say, so does Rush Limbaugh. its tough sometimes to be free but we all must remember that it is much tougher not to be free.

At this point in our nation's history when Barack Obama dominates the news not only in our country but also in every country of the world, it is surely true, as Dee Dee Myers has writen in Vanity Fair Magazine, that Barack Obama is the Most Famous Person of all time. Surely that seems like a stretch, at first, but is it really. Anyone in the world who owns a television or a radio or has access to newspapers surely already knows who Barack Obama is. If they don't know who Obama is chances are that sometime in the near future they will know.

This Super Celebrity may be in some ways a deficit but in other ways it is surely an asset that Obama can use to sway public opinion not only in his own country but in almost every country of the world. This man who only five years ago was a political unknown outside of Illinois, arrived at the Boston Democratic Convention in 2004 and after his incredible keynote address left Boston with the reputation as a politician who was going places. He was a relatively young man when he was elected Junior Senator from Illinois and it was anticipated by many Democrats, myself among them, that he would wait his turn and get some seasoning in the United States Senate before making a run for President. Once elected to the Senate Obama quickly became one of the most sought after speakers by Democratic Candidates all over your country. When Obama came to town to stump for a candidate like Bob Casey in Pennsylvania that candidate was almost guaranteed an overflow crowd of excited potential voters. Consequently, many Democratic candidates like Casey and many others were elected in a Democratic landslide in 2006 which turned the balance of power in the United States House of Representatives over to the Democrats for the first time in many years.

Certainly there were other factors which led to the Democratic rout of Republicans in the 2006 Congressional Elections but one factor was inescapable to Democrats. Barack Obama had proved to the Democratic Party and to you, America, that he was more than just a flash in the pan Democratic superstar whose flame would burn out quickly. When he made his now famous Springfield, Illinois speech declaring his candidacy for The Presidency of The United States few seasoned political observers gave his candidacy much of a chance to succeed. Clearly those political observers did not know how serious and determined Barack Obama was to succeed in his quest for the Presidency. If the didn't know it then, however, they surely know it now. We all know it now. The deed is done and Barack is in the White House and is determined to deal fully with every crisis that is at hand for you, America.

We are surely living in frightening times and are facing extremely difficult challenges. The world has become complex and perilous. It is unlikely that this situation will change any time soon. To be honest, It is beyond me why anyone would actively seek the Presidency in times as frightening as these. But then every Presidential Election cycle has its own difficult challenges. The Civil War, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and The Cold War. You, America, have always had challenges and always will.

In the early days of the Republic it is likely that England felt as though it would only be a short time before they would be able to crush the Pesky American Colonies. Not only did you survive, America but you have become the beacon of hope for all the world's oppressed people who dream of Freedom. America leads the world in every way and the people and leaders of the world are now at this time in our history looking to Barack Obama for guidance in these times of terror and renewal. Will he be up to the job? We don't know. Time will tell. We do know that his youth, dedication to family and friends, judgement, temperment, intelligence and optimism will be sorely tested in the coming months and years.

My guess is that Barack Obama is and will continue to be the kind of Global Leader who can and will help to get our country back the greatness and respectability it deserves to have not only all over our country but also all over the world. As a candidate for President he was inspired by Hope, Change and The Fierce Urgency of Now. As President he will need all of his considerable talents to guide us through the rough seas that surround us.

God Bless Barack Obama and God Bless you, America. In fact God Bless all of us. We are surely all going to need those blessings as we continue to travel through the coming rough seas.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Its Inauguration Day in the Promised Land

January 20th, 2009

My Dear America:

Inauguration Day has finally come to America. There have been Great Expectations regarding this day and its significance to you, America. Great Crowds had been expected. They came and in a show of respect that may have overshadowed the entire day's activities, millions of spectators kept silent not only when Barack Obama took the oath of office but also when he gave his Inauguration speech. The crowd was massive but conducted themselves with dignity honoring the first Black American to ever be sworn in as President of the United States. Certainly security was incredibly tight for this celebration of the installation of our new President. But even with security at unbearable levels, according to those in town for the celebration, there were no arrests or terrorist threats uncovered, that we know of.

Although I gave serious consideration to actually attending the Inauguration in person, I finally decided that I would be able to truly see more of the proceedings on television than in the frigid Washington crowd. There will probably always be part of me that regrets my decision not to go but today I felt truly lucky not to be freezing while watching everything from my living room.

Barack's speech was not the best speech he has ever given or I am sure will ever give. It wasn't the barn burning kind of speech that he is capable of giving and had given on the campaign trail and at the Denver Democratic Convention. It was, however, a very good speech given by a very great orator. Moreover it was a speech that was appropriate for the day and time it was given. Barack Obama was not looking to trot out catch phrases that Americans now and in the future would treasure. He recognized that the time in which he was being inaugurated was a time of difficulties and struggle in our economy, in our foreign policy and in many other aspects of American life. He didn't have to give a speech to sway the massive crowd before him and on television. He had already done that. There were some shameful voices that would pray for his failure and worse but they were on the outside edge of The New American Dream today and clearly the days were numbered for these nattering nabobs of negativism.

It was truly a new day in Washington, D.C. today and every Republican, as well as Democratic Politician knew it. The Democrats had hit the political Trifecta. They were not only in charge of the White House but the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well. As of Tomorrow Barack Obama will no longer have to hold his tongue when asked a question about what he is going to do to fix Washington and the rest of the country. No longer will he have to talk about our country having only one President at a time. He is now that One President and it is his Administration which will now, after I am sure a brief honeymoon period of patience and understanding, be expected to come up with the solutions to some very difficult and complex problems. Surely Americans will give him some room to address the issues of our time but our 24 hour cable networks being what they are will be looking for things to happen tomorrow. Indeed, we will all be looking for at least some direction as to where we are headed if not tomorrow then sometime soon.

Barack's Inauguration speech at least gave some indications of which roads we might be heading down and what problems and programs are at the top of his priority list. He also seemed to throw somewhat of an olive branch to some of those in the world who we might see as enemies of the United States of America. It was a moving and a stirring, well written and well executed speech given with integrity and honor on this historic day.

As cameras panned around the mall in front of the capitol there were people from many places, men and women, boys and girls, black and white and many other shades of American color. Many black faces were shedding tears for themselves, as well as for others who had suffered the abuse and violence of America's past sins. On this day those blacks who had not made it to the Promised Land needed to be represented and celebrated by those who had made it. It was, indeed, a historic day for so many reasons.

While Barack Obama on this historical occasion enjoyed a popularity in polls that seemed, at least at this point, to be unmatched by any other President, there was another man who when Barack took his oath of office lost his power. George Bush, whether or not he was happy or sad on this occasion of Barack's Triumph, seemed to be putting on a good front. Although Bush seemed to have presided over a Presidency of one monumental error after another he had done one thing right. Except for not letting Barack and his family move into Blair House prematurely, George and Laura Bush seemed to be hospitable hosts when they showed the incoming family around and on Inauguration Day George and Laura seemed to be putting on a good face as they and their party lost the right to live in the White House.

I was in our bedroom when my wife shouted to me that George Bush was leaving on a plane. I'm not sure if it was the helicopter or if it was Air Force One taking him home.

I had tried after the Supreme Court virtually crowned Bush President that I would at least try to accept him and give him some respect in the hope that he would deserve it. That acceptance didn't last long although I did give Bush credit for going after Al Quida in Afghanistan following the September 11th attacks. But then, as he had planned to do all along, he swaggered his way into the quicksand of Iraq, from which you, America, have yet to emerge unscathed.

As Bush's helicopter and later his plane reached for the sky it was wonderful for Americans to realize that the long national nightmare of Bush's Cowboy Presidency was over. On this day in January 2009 the legacy of Bush's Nightmare Presidency was not over with even though he himself would be out of D.C. and back in Texas.

After the Inauguration Ceremony with musical Presentations by Aretha Franklin singing "My Country Tis of Thee" and an All Star Chamber Music Quartet, Barack and Michelle attended a dinner with Congress in the Capitol. Although reporters were not allowed to photogragh the proceedings, it was widely reported that Barack worked the room going around from table to table like a groom might work a wedding reception. Unfortunately before the dinner was over Barack had to explain that shortly after Barack visited Ted Kennedy's table Senator Kennedy, an early and important Barack supporter in the primaries, collapsed and was hospitalized following a seizure. Senator Robert Byrd, the oldest serving Senator also apparently collapsed, as well.

Clearly the health problems of these two long time, important Democrats was not good news for Obama but the show had to go on and it did.

The Inauguration Ceremony, as well as the ride and walk down Pennsylvania Avenue showed America that they had elected a very good looking family to live in the White House. Michelle, who had expressed reservations about Barack running in the early days certainly seemed to be over her initial concerns, at least for this day. She and Barack looked like a healthy young couple going on a romantic walk through Washington. And their kids. Who wouldn't love those beautiful, well mannered, parent loving and respecting children.

As the minutes of Inauguration Day ticked away it seemed like the entire country had just enjoyed a breath of fresh air and was continuing to try to hang on to it. At the Inauguration balls that the Obamas visited prior to the end of January 20th they danced to "At Last" being sung by Beyonce. The list of performers at the balls seemed like a Whos Who of popular musical stars. Springsteen and "The Dead" (a band made up of surviving members of "The Grateful Dead") played. Sheryl Crow, Fall Out Boy, Kid Rock. Kid Rock? Isn't he a Republican.

Although Barack Obama did not appear to have the best sense of rhythm in the country as he and Michelle began to visit the Inaugural Balls, they certainly seemed to be a couple that was in love and would support each other as the Obama Administration became a reality. Barack and Michelle were clearly having fun with one another on Inauguration night but both knew that this day would soon be over and the first work day of the Obama Administration would come to replace it.

But for now they had and would always have the memories of this day and it had been a wonderful sunny, cold and event filled day. It had been a day that in the words of "Walter Cronkite" in describing past events "would alter and illuminate our time".

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Birthday Present for Doctor King and All Americans

January 19th, 2009

My Dear America:

Today is the birthday of Doctor Martin Luther King. Tomorrow is the day when Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States.

The Nation's Capital is buzzing with warmth even though the temperatures are below freezing. You, America, are presently the hero of the world despite the fact that it was not all that long ago that you and President Bush seemed to be unwelcome everywhere. Something in the world has surely changed. Certainly there is no doubt about the fact that something in you, America, has surely changed.

America's Patriotic Founders were a very brave group. They stood up to English tyranny and we salute them for it. They did not, however, stand up for the black slaves in the south who were sold like cattle separating families and opressing human beings in a manner that indicated that slaves were not Americans but simply less than human beings who deserved the torture, killings and rapes they
received. It is hard for me to understand, America, just how anyone could or would try to justify the outrageous treatment of black men and women in America from our earliest days until now. I can understand how it could have drifted to the bottom of the priority list in the earliest days of the republic. What I can't understand is how the wretched excesses of slavery lasted as long as they did without other brave and just Americans trying to do something about it.

Still today some Americans tend to forgive the excesses of slavery. But I think that it may not be so easy to forgive America's legacy of slavery if you and your ancestors were victims of this criminal system. Tomorrow the day after
Martin Luther King's national holiday, Michelle Obama, The black Princeton and Harvard Educated Great, Great, Great Great Grandaughter of a slave will move into the White House in Washington, D.C. with her Columbia and Harvard Educated black husband, Barack Obama, following his innauguration as the President of The United States.

Yes, this event indicates once and for all that equality has finally come to America. There is tremendous and well deserved pride in America on Innauguration Eve. It has been, however, a hard and heavy walk to freedom for black Americans. Those brave individuals who stood in the way of slavery and segregation never seemed to come to good ends. Witness Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Lincoln won the Civil War but lost his life in order to end the legality of slavery.

Martin Luther King was a young baptist minister in Montgomery, Alabama, who happened to be (just like Barack Obama) an eloquent and a moving speaker, when along came the arrest of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus boycott. Largely due to the incredible leadership skills of Martin Luther King this Community Organizer was able to lead the boycotters to victory in Montgomery. Certainly Martin could have, at the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, gone back to his church and left the community organizing to someone else.

Martin realized,however, after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, that in the era of television, segregation looked ugly and helped to move people in the direction of non violence and away from hatred. Segregation and racism needed to go. It was a tall order for a previously unknown Southern Baptist preacher. With many young preachers by his side Martin created the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and took it upon himself to go or have his young preachers like Andrew Young, Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson, go wherever they were needed in America to help stamp out segregation, racism and inequality wherever they found it in the United States of America.

Much of the progress involving racial equality that we have witnessed in our country since the late fifties and early and mid sixties was due directly to Martin Luther King and his extreme dedication to the principles of non violence as an answer to inequality and violence.

Martin was an inspiration to many individuals who followed his lead into community organizing and other forms of helping their fellow men and women.
I will never forget the day that I had the great privilege of witnessing Martin Luther King working his magic in person. I was attending Temple University in Philadelphia in the summer of 1965. The program at Temple was called the Counselor Advisor University Education Program (CAUSE II). it was a program designed to train Counselors for placement in Youth Opportunity Centers Throughout the country. These were centers which hopefully would not only provide young people with counseling but with job training and job placement.

One day at Temple a young black man who was a native Philadelphian and was also in the CAUSE II program asked me if I was going to see Dr. King that day at a rally in a church just off the Temple Campus. Tensions were high in Philly that summer in 1965 and the controversial police chief and future Mayor, Frank Rizzo, seemed to be starting more racial problems than he was solving. I went with my friend to the church where Martin would be speaking. I truly expected that there would be many white and black students at the rally. It was only after I was inside the church that I realized that mine was the single white face at this rally. I must admit that it was frightening as some of the local and national figures at this rally spoke about violence as the way of dealing with their problems. Stokely Carmichael, the leader of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was one who didn't sound too willing to continue to be nonviolent.

But then after all the others spoke this very short black man named Martin Luther King Jr. took his place at the podium and his voice dominated and filled the hall. He spoke slowly, clearly and softly at first. He made it clear from the outset that he had not come here to sell out his principles of nonviolence. As he spoke I almost felt as though his voice was so moving that he was able to lift me up. It was so powerful and he spoke with such eloquence. Then something happened that I will truly never forget. I don't recall everything that Dr. King was saying at the time but I remember Martin Luther King saying the words "our white brothers and sisters" and I remember him looking at me and smiling as he looked my way. I was stunned. I am still stunned just thinking about this magical moment in my life and what an incredible impression it has had and still has on my life.

So today on Martin Luther King's birthday I want to thank Dr. King for being here when we needed him. I want to thank him for all he has done to encourage social workers and community organizers alike, including that skinny black kid working on the south side of Chicago who was inspired by Martin Luther King to set his sights high.

Tomorrow that skinny kid who followed in Martin's footsteps around the south side of Chicago will take the oath of office to become the 44th President of the United States.

You can't set your sights much higher than that.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher