February 7, 2015
“But wisely, in truth, he has held up to us the mirror of truth….”
This quote, from my poem “The Inauguration of Change 2009,” resonates with me today as the greatest strength of President Barack Obama—his Truth. It is a strength he has shown ever since he stepped onto the national stage in 2004 to address the Democratic National Convention—and I daresay he was already developing this strength 25 years ago this week, when he became the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review.
This strength was most telling this week as President Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast with these words (as quoted by today’s ATLANTA BLACKSTAR), concerning religion:
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history…. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ…. Michelle and I returned from India—an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity—but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs—acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation. So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.”
Truth is a difficult thing. It is difficult for both the person telling it and the person hearing it, because truth is not “pretty.” Truth is the stripped-down, unvarnished fact of the matter. And President Obama has consistently presented us with—and acted on—truth. But, as always, many who heard Mr. Obama’s words this week reacted predictably—like children who, when being corrected by their parents, put their hands over their ears, clinging to their cherished belief.
These children argued that the Crusades are irrelevant because they happened hundreds of years ago, so what does that have to do with me? It’s the same short-sighted reaction that many people had when President Obama spoke about the issue of Race in America—slavery is irrelevant because [repeat after me]: “it happened hundreds of years ago.” In so doing, they willfully miss not just the point, but the big picture.
Issues of religion and extremism and race and ethnicity and equality for all are human issues that transcend any one particular place or time. They are the issues that make us human and give us a framework for living. These issues, in the framework of our American guiding principles of liberty and justice for all, are what have shaped and guided Mr. Obama throughout his career as a public servant, as our Commander-In-Chief, as The Leader of the Free World.
No matter the crisis or problem—from terrorism to the economy to gay rights to immigration to national security—President Obama has led this country with a steady hand, with a clear vision, and with his eye firmly fixed on The Truth.
We can debate about the merits of his accomplishments, and his other strengths and weaknesses, another day. This much I know to be true:
- He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in his first term
- He brought back our economy from the brink of disaster
- He spearheaded the Affordable Care Act
- He ordered the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden
- He fostered the end of discrimination against the LBGT community within the military
- He is leading the world’s efforts to combat ISIS
Despite all the naysayers, despite all the outright opposition and disdain this man has faced, the American people elected Barack Obama to the office of president. Not once, but twice!
I am proud and honored that he also happens to be the first Black American President.
Today, I celebrate the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.