On October 16, 2009, President Barack Obama co-hosted a Points Of Light forum at Texas A & M University, with former president and Points of Light founder, George H. W. Bush. President Obama opens the forum with a “howdy” to all the Aggies, to which they gave a resounding “howdy,” in return. He stated that it was an honor to speak at such an outstanding university and that he understood why former President Bush decided to house his library there. After about 5 minutes (give or take 15 to 20 secs) of acknowledgments that included names like Barbara Bush, President George H. W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, Former Sen. Samuel Nunn, Ambassador Ron Kirk and this list goes on, Obama decided to recite President Bush’s career portfolio. He highlighted Bush’s career in bullet-point fashion, as if his professional decisions were clean and admirable, full of integrity and selflessness. If I were a canine, my ears would perk up nice and tall at this point, my head would cock to the side and there would be a piercing look of confusion in my eyes (errr roo?!). If you cannot speak truthfully about a situation, then why mention it? Could there have been another approach to introducing former President Bush without bringing your own integrity into question? I now sit here, pondering my own question. I am not accusing President Obama of being dishonest, but I am perplexed. Maybe the selfishness and still controversial reasoning behind Operation Just Cause (Panamanian Invasion), the Persian Gulf War and the continued relationships/friendships with purported terrorists (Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden) are still reigning in the backdrop of my mind. I also find it difficult to ignore Bush’s long standing relationship and business dealings with the Bin Laden family that goes as far back as the 70’s, when he and Salem Bin Laden (Osama’s brother) founded Arbusto Oil Company (also known as Arbusto Energy). Surely these facts are better served in another post, for another time. However, it is disturbing to listen to President Obama go on and on, about President Bush’s “ethic of service long before it was fashion,” depicting Bush as a proposed egalitarian (equalitarian not elitist) citizen whose life embodied the strengths of ethics and morality. Now don’t get me wrong, former President Bush (GHWB) has done some good things and The Points of Light Foundation/Institute is, at least on its face, one of those things.
The Points of Light Institute is said to be a an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on encouraging and empowering serviced based thinking and action in our communities around the nation. In 2007, The Points of Light Foundation and the HandsOn Network merged to become the largest volunteer management organization in the nation and became known as what we know today as, The Points of Light Institute. I must admit, it did warm my heart to hear Bush challenge the nation by making a call for “a thousand points of light” during his inaugural address. This is a good thing, isn’t it? Then why am I bothered? My guess is that I am constantly challenged, as I’m sure many of you are, by the incessant mixing of poison into the nutritional meals. I, for one, am not enjoying the Sybil-like approaches to what seemingly garners the legacy of intentionally paradoxical themes padding the political chair of our presidency and other governmental seats. Perhaps I am off base here and President Obama is simply being the “optimist” he proclaims to be. In light of this, I must concede to the plausibility that he is collapsing on a higher truth, one that is hard to reach when factors are hazy and typically too convoluted and challenging for most of us to sift through. Is he really choosing to see the light in the pain? Or is this some framework for decorum that better serves his point of pulling us all in with his story? You know how we love a good story. Well, our experience and response to that question will be a subjective one and will depend solely on our ability and effort to remain unattached and unbiased in our observations. Admittedly, this will be a task for me, considering all of what is on the table, but it is my goal.
President Obama’s political prowess is nothing to sneeze at. Surely this is finesse at its best, but does that element alone disparage the sincerity of his words? Obviously not. Yet, there is a growing population of Obama haters that literally hold his ability to appear more human than most presidents, as a threat. It is all the proof they need to validate that he is a fraud. It’s terrifying, for some, to think that someone could hold the position of president and still remain approachable. Do we want an elitist thinking government or are we just conditioned to the feel of one? Well, like it or not, charismatic seems to be Obama’s style, a gift that he openly shares every chance he gets and his visit to Texas A & M was no exception. He did not hold back during his Points of Light speech, which has a video duration of about 23 minutes. President Obama gave example after example, in mini story format, of how we can all be of service. He held the attention of his audience as he elicited movement within their emotional framework by drawing them in, consciously softening his tone of seriousness with an occasional interjection of comic relief, as he reminded us all of our responsibility to be of service. It was a perfect blend of sweet and sour. Balancing the flavors of thought, he petitioned the savor of some grand idea that we as a nation can be greater than our politics. Fact or Fiction? You decide!
Once you get past the political red carpet that served as the preface to this thought-provoking speech and any personal blocks that you may have with Bush and, or Obama, there is a real opportunity for contemplation. Texas A & M’s efforts to be an example of an institution of higher learning that is committed to giving back is definitely something to applaud. It is not uncommon to hear of sororities or fraternities that are engaged in community service, but there hasn’t been much buzz on schools itself doing much, outside of its chapter affiliates, unless integrally tied to some type of sports related association. A & M’s gesture of giving has truly been one without a concern for reciprocity. This was a pleasant surprise. President Obama mentioned that A & M’s students give back in a variety of ways ranging from tutoring children, to building homes, to raising money to fight cancer and aids. Again, very refreshing. We are privy to so many negatives that it was nice to be reminded that some of us really are doing what counts. Way to go A & M!!!
Obama is conducting this presidency opportunity on a level which requires a strategic approach to politics. The nature of our nation is inherently driven by truth revealed (believe it or not). That truth revealed has its own time and place of revelation. Even W’s presidential record is less likely to be understood in the near term and I believe that Obama realizes that attention paid to W’s crimes, if any, will simply drive a wedge into an already fragile social and political fabric of our country. The trade off is to gain traction on issues that will prove to transform the direction and leadership style in our country by focusing minds and resources and actions on education, health care, the economy, and how the executive branch conducts governing and in a challenging war time environment.
Sure, I also want the questions of all our country’s ills and past conducts etc… to be addressed. However, justice is not perfect and any such pursuit at this critical time is the wrong battle to fight.
Texas A&M does deserve praise just as former President Bush even if they may be responsible for or parties to transgressions that need to answered for and paid for.
However, I believe that Obama sees that a deeply fragmented America due to a pursuit of a truth and justice crusade of former “admired” presidents is not the prescription for a productive America in these times. Plus, even though some deeds may be more appalling than others, even Obama’s presidency will have questionable tracks and results to some degree and they will also figure into the sum of our country’s legacy.
I feel you, just as I am, are willing to accept the fact that GHW is using his influence and that it is a positive thing. Obama’s recognition of this effort at an Aggie venue will do more to invite the southeast Texas community to realize just how much in common it shares with our current president.
Very enlightening post and you make some critical points. At this point, I am in full observation mode and riding the wave. It is clear that most of us want to move forward and enjoy a new beginning and a more productive type of thinking, but many of us are also afraid of what that means or what that looks like. The fear alone will drag/has dragged us into the unconscious behavioral pitfalls that we have become so accustomed to through habit. However, I am prayerful that we as a nation and the neighbors of our world can one day, identify where our ignorance exceeds our kindness and intelligence, and choose something different. Thank you for your feedback =)