Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama

by Robison Wells

So, I recently went back through this blog and categorized all of my 2008 blog posts. I had a really good reason for doing so (though I can't remember it now), and I discovered something interesting. In the category of Current Events, I only ever talked about two things: holidays--usually how much I dislike them--and the election.

In fact, I talked about the election about eight times this year--one sixth of all my blogs--from the time when I made bumper stickers for all us bloggers to the time that the Heat Miser and the Grinch held a townhall debate to the time that I found slogans for the candidates.

However, one interesting thing to note is that I've never actually come out and said anything about what I really think about the election. (Well, I said something once, but it was intentionally vague about my personal leanings.)

I'm a big fan of politics. I did my undergrad in political science and enjoy nothing more than discussing politics, policy, and philosophy. Unfortunately, I've also learned that politics are divisive, and political discussions can quickly devolve into heated arguments. This is the primary reason that I never talk about politics on this blog.

Well, here it is: I voted for Barack Obama.

It wasn't because I totally agreed with every single one of his policies, but overall I did like them better than I liked the other candidates'. As mentioned, I certainly don't intend to stir up any kind of argument, so I think I'll end my political proclamations there. That's not the point of today's post. (Though, if anyone has any questions about my political opinions, I'm happy to discuss them offline. robisonwells at msn dot com)

Anyway, the point of today's post is this: the inauguration was today, and I was very moved by it. Yes, I think that much of it is overblown, and yes, I know that most of the speakers had speech writers. It wasn't the production that moved me.

Last week, I took my six-year-old daughter Holly out for a Daddy-Daughter Date. She'd gotten a coupon at school for Applebee's--she did well on a spelling test--and earned herself a free kid's meal. While we were there, she talked. She's six, and loves to talk and talk and talk. (In fact, her three-year-old brother's favorite exclamation is "STOP TALKING, HOLLY!")

She started talking about what she would do when she was grown up. Her ideas were mostly about rules she'd abolish, such as "When I'm a mom, I'm going to let my kids eat dessert before dinner." So, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She gave her usual list of answers, which included a mom, a first-grade teacher, and a cheerleader. This time she added that she wants to make signs, which was a new one, and she left off an old favorite: "I want to be the person who puts papers car windows in the parking lot."

As I usually do, I asked her if she wants to play basketball. She's very tall, so I always ask, but she never is very interested.

Then I asked if she wanted to be the president. I wasn't thinking much of it--it's just something that adults tell kids they can be.

Holly replied, laughing: "Dad, girls can't be the president."

Now, I don't really know where she got that idea. It might be because she knows who the president was (Bush) and who the new president is (Obama), and she noticed they're not female. Or it might be because she was connecting national government with church organization, and knew that women couldn't be the church president. I don't know. But the important thing is that, however she deduced that women couldn't be the president, she accepted it with enough conviction that she thought my suggestion was completely absurd.

Now, before you get any ideas, let me reinforce that I didn't vote for Obama because he was black. However, I absolutely love the fact that Holly--and all kids in America--will grow up now knowing that a black man can be president.

Some people say that racism is dead in America. From my own personal experience, I can say that it's not. I remember sitting in a ward council meeting and hearing a bishop refer to Mexican immigrants as "a bunch of wetbacks". Just a month ago, a schoolmate of mine declared publically that a certain minority shouldn't be hired because "they don't like to work". When I was on my mission, living back and forth on and off of the Navajo Reservation, I heard abhorrent things being said--some by the missionaries themselves!--about the Navajo.

But think about Holly, and the millions of other kids growing up now, who will see Barack Obama on the news everyday. Will they grow up with an entirely different perception than I did? Absolutely.

Like I said, race was not the reason I voted for Barack Obama--I did that because of some of his policies. But I don't think the monumental nature of his win can be overstated. No, he's not the Messiah, and he probably won't be as effective in government as many of his supporters hope he will. But I'm glad he's there, and I'm glad that my baby, who was born seventeen days before Obama took office, will never have a conscious memory of a time when such a thing was considered impossible.


At 1/20/2009 11:57 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

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At 1/21/2009 12:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't vote for Obama, but I wasn't thrilled about either candidate so I wasn't heartbroken when he won. But I also love the fact that my children will grow up knowing that virtually anyone can aspire to be anything they want to me and make it, if they work hard enough. And I think Obama definitely worked for this presidency, whatever I think about him and his policies. I didn't vote for him, but now he's my president and so I respect and support him.

At 1/21/2009 12:26 AM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

I read Obama's first book a couple of years ago, so when he ran for Pres I already knew what he was about. So I voted for him too.

I absolutely hate prejudice and am continually surprised by those who show signs of it.

My children come home from school saying the most wild things like "when Obama is president, we'll have to go to school on Saturdays!"

Hey, that's not a bad idea :)

The kids seem to always be out of school for a snow day or a "professional development day".

At 1/21/2009 12:37 AM, Blogger Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Nice, Rob. I tipped my political hand on my blog today, too. Thanks for sharing, and I agree 100%. :-)

At 1/21/2009 12:39 AM, Blogger Bruce in Montana said...

"not one of the children of old Cain, have one particle of right to bear rule in government affairs from first to last, they have no business there. This privilege was taken from them by there own transgressions, and I cannot help it..."
-Brigham Young

May God have mercy on us all.

At 1/21/2009 1:04 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


Nice of you to illustrate Rob's point that racism is still alive and kicking. Because I know the brethren haven't mentioned numerous times that previous statements about race were incorrect.

At 1/21/2009 9:18 AM, Blogger Marcia Mickelson said...

I love your post, Rob. You made me cry. Thanks for sharing what Holly said. Children really make us think.

At 1/21/2009 9:55 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Awesome post, Rob. Thanks.

At 1/21/2009 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm one of those few people who didn't vote for the man, but I must say I was very impressed with him yesterday.
I can't wait to see what else can be accomplished by a man who doesn't even hear the words "you can't do that."

At 1/21/2009 12:40 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

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At 1/21/2009 12:58 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

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At 1/21/2009 1:02 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

While I don't agree with a lot of Obama's politics, I feel the same way as Rob when he said, "I'm glad that my baby, who was born seventeen days before Obama took office, will never have a conscious memory of a time when such a thing was considered impossible."

At 1/21/2009 1:25 PM, Blogger Micah Bruner said...

I could not agree more with Mr. Woolley.

I also appreciate Rob's point. However, I do worry that President Obama's election has more to do with racism than anyone is willing to discuss.

After all, there are certain race-mongers out there who use race as a method of obtaining preferential treatment (Jesse Jackson comes to mind). This type of approach (adopted whole-heartedly by the media) has caused most Americans to pay more attention to race than the content of one's character.

In order to "overcome racism," we have been pushed to the other extreme. Affirmative Action, and any similar principles or procedures, is racism.

That is not to say that President Obama was elected solely because of his skin color. Obviously this neophyte took advantage of the Titanic-like governance of the Republican party and the vacuum of leadership in the Democrat party to sweep in and rise to power. Hey, that's politics and President Obama used every advantage (however superficial) available to him to win the election.

But let's face it. Obama attended a racist church. For twenty years he heard sermons preaching the demise of the White Man. Obama also has done literally nothing of consequence except to preach his own greatness (generally the president of the law review will have contributed SOMETHING of importance to legal writing - from Obama's days as president of the Harvard Law Review - nothing).

Were it not for his skin color, it is unlikely that Obama would have survived the many gaffes and scandals of his candidacy.

Still, President Obama has demonstrated reasons to be excited about his ability to lead that pushed many Americans to vote for him.

I agree that there is a sigh of relief to be had that a black man has been elected president. However, I fear that it may do more harm than good in the fight against racism.

I sincerely hope the best for President Obama. I truly pray that he will make the right decisions and will lead our nation into prosperity. Although he was elected in part because of his race, I hope beyond all hopes that he proves to have the substance necessary to be a great leader. There is certainly a great hope that President Obama has the same aptitude that our past great leaders have had. And perhaps, depending on what happens, I will cast a vote for him in four years.

I just hope that, after four years in office, he has proven that he deserves the vote for more than simply that he is a black man who put together a candidacy that was given a near free-pass because of his skin color where other candidacies would have been slayed.

At that point, I will join Rob in celebrating what will be a near-fatal blow to racism. Until then, I remain cautiously optimistic.

At 1/21/2009 3:13 PM, Anonymous ally condie said...

Loved this post, Rob. Thank you.

At 1/21/2009 4:06 PM, Blogger Sandra said...

I have so much to say on this topic, but instead I will just post what I wrote a couple of days after the election:

Yes I can

Tuesday we voted and chose the person that will be our next president. When the results were announced I cried. But not for the reason you think. While president-elect Obama did not get a mark on my ballot, I cried because I was priviliged to witness the election of a black man to the highest office of our country.

I know that a lot of people are talking about the historic action that this is, but I am not sure how many of them understand it on a more than "wow, this is a first" level. I am not sure that I even get it the way a person of color gets it. However, having a child that is bi-racial, I get it. I get what it means to her and her perceived options in life. I know what it means to look at a picture of powerful people and see more than a sea of white faces looking back.

She will now never have to hear that a black person has never been considered intelligent enough, or worthy enough, or even good enough to be president. She will be able to see two little girls living and learning and growing in The White House, and it will all seem normal and natural to her. She will have pictures of those same little girls running on the East Lawn with their puppy loping along with them, and she will know that she too has options.

You may think that I exaggerate, but I do not. For the past 9 years I have heard and lived with the comments from ignorant people in our community when it comes to the color of her skin. I have listened to the amazement that a little black girl could be so intelligent (she has the highest scores in her class and tests at 1-2 grade levels higher). These same people attribute her intelligence to the fact that she lives with white people- never to inate ability on her part. When people ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, they always assume that she will say a basketball player because she is so tall and we all know that tall black people make the best basketball players. I have seen the astonishment and disbelief on their faces when she says that she wants to play soccer, be a ballerina and write books.

Surely she should not set her sights so high, on such unattainable goals. But now she can say, as an echo of the oh so eloquent speech that President-elect Obama gave on Tuesday night,

"Yes I can."

Thank you, Rob

At 1/21/2009 5:26 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Didn't McCain get something like 87% of the popular vote in Utah? =) (I was in the un-popular group myself.)

I have no political soapbox to stand on, so I'll just share this bon mot (not mine) from the Style Invitational, attempting to mimic a headline from The Onion:

Man Who Edged Woman for Chief Exec Post Hires Her as Secretary

At 1/22/2009 1:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my first time commenting on this blog since I just found it tonight, but racism aside, I think it is very concerning that despite who is in the White House, and despite their party affiliation, we continue to see a slide in our society toward participatory fascism.

I know that at first glance that is an alarming statement to make. However, after studying the topic for a few years it seems apparent that we are moving closer and closer to the events described in the Book of Mormon about the freemen and the kingmen, Obama's presidency notwithstanding.

At 1/22/2009 12:37 PM, Blogger pwells said...

Rob, the way you feel about Max being born into a world where a black man can be president mirrors the feelings I had when the Proclamation on the Priesthood came out when you were just two months old.

At 2/03/2009 3:20 PM, Blogger Danielle said...

Hi. I don't think I've commented on here before (forgive me if I have - it's been awhile since I've been on this site), but I just wanted to say a couple things.

Love this post (and all the comments). I didn't vote for Obama, but I like the points you made here.

As an aside, I have all your books. On Second Thought is my favorite, and it is THE book I read over and over again, even though I have countless other books to choose from (LDS writers and otherwise). Anyway, just wanted to say I'm a huge fan. Congrats on your new baby boy!


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