Why Obama is Still My Man By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

Image credit: Sahara Reporters

In 2004, Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Congress woman, recently visited the White House with a congressional delegation. Making her way out, she passed President Bush and the president literally jumped back on seeing “Obama” button pinned to her chest. Guessing what the president was thinking, she told him, “Mr. President, it is Obama with a “b”. Still, the president did not get it. The congresswoman briefly explained to Bush who Obama was. “Well, I don’t know him”, the president responded. Jan Schakowsky paused for a moment and then said to the president, “You will.”

I first wrote about Barack Obama in 2004 in an article I called, Obama: The Audacity of Hope. In it I predicted that he would be elected President of the United States in 2016. Little did I know that he would be ending his second term in 2016. As America sets to reelect Obama for a second term, it is important to remember why Obama was the man then and is still the man today despite the political battering he has taken over the last four years. At the risk of sounding dumb, dated and drunk, I republish unedited my February 2008 article, “Why Obama Is My Man.”

I am watching America.

As an African, I have known charred hope. I have seen stolen opportunities. I have witnessed the lavish celebration of abysmal failure. As an antidote to it all, I have padded my sanity with the juice of cynicism.

For that reason, I was very reluctant to emotionally invest in Barrack Obama. I was not sure what another heartbreak would do to my soul. A heartbreak in Africa could be pieced together with strings of tears but a heartbreak in America, “the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the last best hope for mankind,” portends total disillusionment.

Since Obama won the Democratic Party caucus in Iowa, I have been watching America. I have been holding my breath. And so should you.

I am watching America to see what it does with Obama. I am watching on behalf of my four-year old daughter, Ijeamaka, and my nine-month old son, Ogonna. I watch because I know my children’s fate in America will not differ from Obama’s. One generation after, my children will receive in their prime the same treatment America is giving today to Obama, the son of a white Kansas blonde.

For so long, the prevailing mantra has been that “it is what it is.” In Obama, America seems to be saying that “it does not always have to be what it is.” In the past, America has proved that it can uphold its creed, polish its union, and advance its citizenship. It seems this is one of those times. And that is why I am watching America.

If America finds home for Obama, America will in that singular act find home for so many people of color who have one foot in America and another hanging outside.

If America gives Obama a strong place to stand, America will be giving millions of people eager to embrace the American ideals but unsure of their place in it, a stool on which to lift America up.

I am watching America. I am holding my breath. And so should you.

From Nairobi to Niamey, Cairo to Cape Town, Africa fumbles. For me, each fumble raises the question of where home is? The more the place I came from ceases to look like home, the more I desire to have as home where I reside. But until I feel at home in America, I remain a divided soul.

I have come to terms with that paradox. What I have not come to terms with is where that leaves my children. And that is why I am watching America.

If America finds home for Obama, America will be going a step further to make me feel at home in America.

If America finds home for Obama, America will be reducing in leaps and bounds my wariness about the place of my children in America.

If America takes care of Obama, I can then relax knowing that America will take care of Ijeamaka and Ogonna.

America’s flag flies high because it is always looking for a place where everyone can see it and salute it’s pursuit of a higher purpose.

If America embraces Obama, America will be shedding off the yoke of its ugly past.

If America listens to Obama, America will be paying tribute to screams long suppressed.

If America welcomes Obama, America will be giving reasons for many to believe again.

If America kisses Obama, America will be opening the door for dreams to fly in once more.

Obama is like an exquisite painting that critics all agree makes a statement. What America does with that painting will be televised for posterity. If America hides it under the shelf, that statement will reverberate all over the globe. If America hangs it on its living room wall, America will be rewarded with a blessed future.

There is no accident in the birth of destiny. There are only consequences for its deferment.

Those who hitch on the wind of transformation go far. Those who put up windbreaks on its path invite the wrath of fortune.

I should not be saying this to America, for America should have known this already. So, I sit back and watch.

I am watching America to see what it does with Obama.

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