Last night as I watched the people of South Carolina stand up for a new kind of politics and a new kind of leadership, I felt something deep inside. The faces, the energy, the possibilities, the new thinking, and Barack Obama's inspiring message to us all brought a new level of HOPE for America and the world. I admit it, I sobbed --- mostly it felt like eight years of grief for the blood, loss, corruption, and human tragedy we have experienced watching what happens when a president sees war as his unilateral vision and drills it into the fabric of our country.
I also think part of it was the feeling of being duped by the Clintons. Over the years, I've had my struggles with their style of leadership. I am grateful for the good that came and I have been willing to forgive them for the disgrace and detour we were forced to endure during their reign because of Bill Clinton poor judgment. This past few weeks, I have been so disillusioned by their very deliberate attempt to diminish this young, powerful leader with vision that is igniting people all over the nation. One would expect so much more from two political elders, who have had they day and professed their beliefs in equality for all people. Bill's intentional "code words" were not unnoticed. As far as Hillary --- I can say, I look forward to seeing a woman in the White House someday, but I do not want a woman to win that brings the same shoddy, dirty tricks politics that men use as sport. I do not want a woman that lies or feels called to diminish anyone for her own political advantage. We can do better than this. Instead I envision a leader that will inspire the greatness in all of us --- by their own greatness in who they are and what they bring to leadership, not just in experience, but in character and practice day-to-day.
Caroline Kennedy's Op-Ed in the New York Times endorsing Barack Obama said so much about how it feels to me and others I talk to that have experienced what Barack and Michele are bringing to this year's presidential campaign. There has never been another time since John F. Kennedy that this country felt such possibility and responsibility because of a leader with a clear vision. I share it here as it shouldn't be missed:
OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.
My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.
Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.
We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.
Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.
Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.
I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.
Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.
I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.
I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.
Caroline Kennedy is the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love
It feels good to stand up and be counted.
How about you? What's you view?
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