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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

President Obamas Speech at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial

President Obama, today, spoke at the Memorial Service held for Nelson Mandela. As is always the case at ANY public event that the President attends, all eyes were upon him. Let’s discuss the event’s fallout.

I used the word “fallout” because as we all now know, someone will take a shot at just about any little gesture that the President makes, whether there is any meaning behind it or not. Notice that I didn’t say, “...any meaning INTENDED behind it...” There doesn’t need to be any intention behind what he says or does for his detractors to jump on him. Believe me, I can be just as critical of the President as the next guy but when you hear the things that they say at times, you realize that they don’t even give him the basic right to exist! Really, they don’t believe Barack Obama has the right to be President and if you listen carefully, you can hear them tell their friends just how “uppity” he can get at times.

I was really proud to be an American today. I’m actually ALWAYS proud to be an American but more so today than usual. Watching how that crowd responded to OUR President as he walked onto the podium was an inspiration. Yes, we have a lot wrong with our country, but the mere fact that America’s first African-American President was giving the “keynote speech” at Mandela’s memorial shows that America has the ability to change and grow and move past their earlier injustices. That’s in spite of the fact that many people believe that the President didn’t deserve to be there in the first place.

As I watched and listened to his speech, I didn’t hear anything that the President’s critics could use against him. In fact, the President’s speech was a moving tribute to a man who was willing to die for what he believed in. A man who withstood years of indignity as the unrepentive, convicted guest of a regime that refused to allow him his freedom whether it was inside a cell or out. A man so dangerous to South Africa’s government, that they kept him behind bars for over twenty-five years. No, my friends, I didn’t hear anything that Obama said today that the Republican’s, the Tea Party or ANY rational human being could use against him.

What I did hear today was a man, a man honoring another man. I heard a man, who despite the ugly indignities hurled at him for the last five to six years, speak with dignity and represent a country which only 150 years ago, treated his ancestors the same way South Africa treated Nelson Mandela. As President Obama spoke about the changes Nelson Mandela was able to make in South Africa, you could hear if you listened closely enough, the fading and dying sounds of that old southern song, “Dixie”. A song that symbolized the travesty of slavery much like the word “Apartheid” symbolized the injustices committed in South Africa. As Obama continued, you could almost forget that he was speaking of one individual and realize that the beliefs and actions used to tear down “Apartheid” are the same beliefs and actions that every man needs to have for this world to be a better place to live in. These “morals” never change for they’ve been talked about and practiced for generations. When the President said, ‘It took a man like Madiba (Mandela) to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you’, he was also reminding us that Lincoln’s policy after the Civil War was to be one of inclusion and not one of punishment. A fundamental requirement if both the oppressed AND the oppressors are to become free. He goes on to say, ‘that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth.’ Unlike Mandela’s and South Africa’s immediate “inclusion”, America’s “inclusion” took more time but with Obama’s election to the Presidency, we certainly can say that we’ve come a long way towards making it complete.

In regards to President Obama shaking hands with Raul Castro, we really need to realize that today was a memorial and that most decent people are not there to create attention for themselves but to honor the individual being memorialized. President Obama simply shook the next hand that was to be shaken, no more, no less. Like I said before... there wasn’t any meaning behind it, intended or not. If anyone doubts the President’s commitment to fundamental human rights, he also had this to say; ‘There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s (Mandela’s) legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s (Mandela’s) struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. No folk’s, President Obama isn’t signaling any kind of change towards Cuba by his handshake with Raul. Yes, I know that after hearing that speech today, the people who hate the President have to grab onto something with which to hit him. After all, they certainly couldn’t use that speech; there simply wasn’t anything controversial about it, unless, of course, you disagree with freedom, justice and equality. Oops, I just remembered who were dealing with... Republicans, Tea Partyers and Conservatives.

And that’s, “As I understand it now... ‘til it changes”.
Let me know what you think.

Michael K. Stichauf