Style and biography

/ 7 June 2009

I love this passage from Andrew Sullivan’s column in the Times (UK) this week:

An Indonesian journalist, after asking why the president didn’t make his speech in that vast Muslim south Asian country, followed up with this:

Q: Actually I live only 300 metres from your old house.

President Obama: Is that right?

Q: Yes, Menteng Dalam.

President Obama: Except now it’s all paved.

Q: Yes, it’s all paved.

President Obama: Yes, see, when I was there it was all dirt, so when the rains came it would all be mud. And all the cars would get stuck.

How many previous American presidents addressing the masses in the developing world have been able to say that? The last presidents to break through in this global fashion — Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy — represented American glamour and style and otherness. Barack Obama does, too — but he combines it with a unique developing-world biography.

This is what I dreamed of when campaigning for the man.

Another example from On The Media this week. Ahmad al-Shugairi, “a new breed of preacher” dedicated to Islam, ends his segment like this:

We focus on alcohol and sexual issues. So we see the US are open on these two arenas so we say we are better than them because we don’t have those. However, we forget that these are two out of a hundred. Barack Obama’s presidency is a great implementation of a human virtue that prophet Mohammed and Jesus before him promoted, which is that all humans are created equal. When you see an African American leading the most powerful country in the world, out of election not out of force, and it cannot be implemented anywhere else in the world, anywhere else, this needs to be acknowledged.

What an opportunity we now have. I hope we seize it!


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