13 Mar


Louise Annarino

March 13, 2012

President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron will be at UD Arena tonight. It is probably too much to hope that these men who have so much of the world’s burden on their shoulders will be able to forget the world for a moment, and simply enjoy a basketball game. The selfless dedication of our public servants amazes me. Yes, cynics, I know the doors of fame and riches open to them. But, they are talented in so many ways that those doors would open regardless. But, such men and women sacrifice so much more than they gain from public service. They serve you and me. In the case of these world leaders, they serve the entire world. I don’t know about you; but, I find that heavy an obligation overwhelming. I am so grateful, they are willing to take on this role.

For President Obama, the role has been made even more difficult by the racism which undermines every facet of our society. He has faced such racism all his life; every African-American does so. Mr. Midea, my high school social studies teacher, helped my class conduct a racism survey across Newark, Ohio in 1966-67. The results were appalling. People even acknowledged they would refuse to receive communion from a Black priest. Of course we all read of the priest who recently refused communion to a lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral. Have we learned so little over all this time?

One thing I have learned is that every one of us is a recovering racist; well, not all of us want to recover. I see too many political pundits, rally signs, internet cartoons etc. which are gleefully,blatantly racist not to realize some of us enjoy our racism. At the very least we should denounce these blatant expressions of racism. Better yet, face it in ourselves. When we do that we open our eyes to its impact. We become empowered to defeat it.

I once thought that if we could see one another as people with the same innate intelligence, ability, hopes, and dreams we would reduce racism. However, it appears that establishing such congruence actually increases our racist behavior. We seem to like believing we are superior to someone else. Politicians and pundits praise our “American exceptionalism”.  History books extol “Manifest Destiny”. At tonight’s basketball game someone will hold up a foam hand with a single finger raised in a victory sign, “We’re number 1”.

We eliminated a class or caste system and held “these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”; while  excluding African-Americans or women. As a kid I noticed that one-upsmanship ruled every discussion. Your dad made you shovel the sidewalk? My dad made me shovel mine and my grandmother’s! Your school has only two 15 minute recesses? Mine has only 1 recess? And so it would go, on and on. We all want to be number 1; especially politicians. It is unrealistic to expect otherwise.

However, we can ask these hard questions of ourselves: Am I better than anyone else? If so, in what way? Is it because I am a man and she is a woman? Is it because I am a white person and he is an African-American? Is it because my family came here legally years ago, and his did not? Is it because I am a straight person and he is not? Is it because I live in a decent neighborhood, and she does not? Is it because I went to college and he did not? Is it because he has been imprisoned, and I have not? What really makes one person better than another ? If you believe in American values of equality, the answer is “Nothing”. One person may DO something better than another; but that does not mean he IS better.

A politician who recognizes this distinction, who honors every citizen and every country with equal respect is a statesman. President Obama is such a politician. He is a true statesman. He is the very best America has to offer the world. He embodies are core value of equality. We are so fortunate he and Michelle Obama are dedicated to public service. I hope he can enjoy tonight’s game half so much as we enjoy having him there, and as our president.



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