PRESIDENTS DAY 2017

Visiting George, Washington on Presidents Day in 2012.
Visiting George, Washington on Presidents Day in 2012.

Obama ranked 12th best president by historians in new C-SPAN poll

Often history, and in this case, historians are kinder to past presidents than their contemporaries are while they are in office.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/02/20/obama-ranked-12th-best-president-historians-new-c-span-poll/98149240/

When Barak Obama took the oath of office eight years ago he was somewhat unknown to me as a person. I decided to read his books “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope”. I was hoping for insights into the man’s faith and value system. I thought the reading might enable me to connect with his humanity and provide me with a context in which to understand his political philosophy and policy proposals. Through these books, I discovered a spiritual connection to the man that transcends politics. It gave me the ability to disagree with him on certain policy issues in an honorable way without the necessity of disparaging him nor demonizing him as a person, a practice perpetuated by so many insecure and immature fellow citizens over the past eight years.

I was initially encouraged by two initial revelations in the book. Barak Obama is my brother in Christ. In his writings and throughout his tenure as President, he affirmed his Christian faith. To understand his practice of faith one must understand his context of faith. He was born again and raised in the African American church. I have had the privilege to study and to have some limited experience with that cultural expression of Christian faith.

The other connection I felt with this man through reading his book “Dreams from My Father” was the fact that like my father, Barak was raised without the presence of his biological father. My father was abandoned by his biological father when he was four years old. He spent the next decade in an orphanage. I am awed that my father was such a good husband and father given his circumstance. Fortunately, it was the practice of this orphanage to take the children to church on Sundays. There my father was introduced to Jesus and to healthy male role models.

Likewise, I have been impressed these past eight years with Barak Obama not only as a father to his two daughters but also as a loving and faithful husband to his wife.

Beyond these initial spiritual connections, I discovered three value statements that provided me with a sense of kinship with President Obama:
I exercise leadership as a Father,
I am my brothers’ keeper.
I am called to be a peacemaker.

I exercise leadership as a Father.

The sovereign leader of creation chose to reveal himself in Jesus Christ as a father. Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the father.” The healthiest leadership is exercised from a father’s heart and perspective. (the use of the word “father” in this context is not a gender specific term)

Fathers have a unique value system and perspective on life. For example, what has been traditionally entitled: ”The Parable of the Prodigal Son” I would re-entitle “The Parable of the Father”. One moral of this story is that fathers create an inheritance for their children. Another moral would be that families unite around a father.

Using the metaphor of family, the President of the United States is the father. For example, as a father myself, I can empathize with Presidents Obama’s decision to pull our troops out of a decade-old war.

As of June 29, 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,424 total deaths (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 31,952 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom

As of October 18th, 2016, there have been 2,386 U.S. military deaths in the War in Afghanistan. 20,049 American service members have also been wounded in action during the war. In addition, there were 1,173 U.S. civilian contractor fatalities.

Whether conscious or not, there is a negative impact on the human psyche of a nation which has to witness such carnage over an extended period of time. Obama, the father, pulled out the troops. Obama, the Commander in Chief, continued the fight in a different manner relying more heavily on drones and bombers rather than boots on the ground. In 2016 the US dropped 26,171 bombs. This was 3,027 more bombs than in 2015. (12,192 on Syria, 12,095 on Iraq, 1,337 Afghanistan, 496 on Libya, 34 on Yemen and 3 on Pakistan)

I am my brothers, keeper.

“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”” (Genesis 4:9, NKJV)

The form of the Hebrew word for “keeper” means, “to keep, have charge of, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, and save a life.”

God created humanity to live and thrive in a community. Living well in community requires a positive answer to this critical question Cain asked of God. Like Obama, I have answered this question in the positive. I am my brother’s keeper. Much of Obama’s political grid can be understood by this perspective. The Affordable Care Act is one example of a policy which resulted from this grid.

Prior to elected political office, Barak Obama was a community organizer. His strategy was not to “do for” people but to inform, empower and encourage people to band together and “do for” themselves in addressing specific injustices and important social issues. People were encouraged to look out for each other.

If my neighbor’s property degenerates into disrepair, it will negatively affect my property value and other property values in my neighborhood. It really does not matter the reasons for the unsightly condition of my neighbor’s property. Whether my neighbor is ill, elderly, disabled or just plain lazy the effect is the same. If my neighbor is ill and cannot access the medical treatment he needs it affects my value as a human being as well as the human value of my community, regardless of the cause of his medical condition. Even if my neighbor’s illness and inability to access medical treatment it is a result of lifestyle choices it has the same effect on the community. It is in my best interest and the best interest of the community to act and to help my neighbor access the medical attention needed. The giving of alms in Judaic culture was an important value even though people like Jesus realized that the poor would always be there. The giving of alms is not a cure for poverty. It is an act that increases the human value of a community.

I am called to be a Peacemaker.

Jesus declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”
(Matthew 5:9, NKJV)
The Apostle Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
(Romans 12:18, NKJV)

Quoting Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Nobel_Peace_Prize)

The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to United States President Barack Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the award on October 9, 2009, citing Obama’s promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and a “new climate” in international relations fostered by Obama, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world.
The Nobel Committee’s decision drew mixed reactions from US commentators and editorial writers across the political spectrum, as well as from the rest of the world.
Obama accepted the prize in Oslo on December 10, 2009. In a 36-minute speech, he discussed the tensions between war and peace and the idea of a “just war” saying, “perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars.”

I could cite many examples of President Obama’s efforts toward world peace during his tenure in office. One of his strategies as our elder statesman I thought was especially wise. As an example, I will cite his visit to Hiroshima, Japan. He visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and signed the guest book. He also laid a wreath at the cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which commemorates the victims of the atomic bomb the United States dropped there in 1945.

Moving forward in peace in a relationship where there has been a history of strife is not easy. The temptation is to try and assign blame and resolve all the issues that caused strife in the past. (If you have ever tried your hand at marriage counseling you can empathize with what I am saying) More often than not that is a tedious and mostly impossible task. At some point, it is simpler for the parties in the relationship to acknowledge their strife-filled past and to mutually agree to move ahead into a more peaceful future. By his presence in Hiroshima and other such historical sites around the world President Obama did just that.

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