Sunday, November 22, 2009

Obama needs to rise to challenge

I know that Barack Obama is working on numerous fronts to bring forth policies that I believe in, but the ride is slow, bumpy and not at all guaranteed to succeed -- and it seems that the president hasn't been fighting enough to make these important changes come to fruition. I cannot help but pine for a leader like Franklin Roosevelt.

Now, Obama does not have FDR's disposition and the economic mess he inherited, while serious, is not the Great Depression (and therefore, drastic action is harder to implement). More than that, however, times have changed since the 1930s and 1940s, and maybe there's no bigger example than the breadth and scrutiny of the media, evidenced by disproved lies, like Obama not being a citizen, getting significant play while an actual fact, that FDR was confined to a wheelchair, was hushed by the press of his day.

Those who have grumbled about Obama being socialist and the most radical occupant ever of the White House are ignoring that the current president is nowhere near as far to the left as Roosevelt, who quickly and forcefully empowered the government to help the "third of the nation" that was "ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished," actions which had him labeled "a traitor to his class."

Today I watched a PBS documentary on the federal government program that sent photographers out to chronicle rural poor during the Depression, an undertaking that resulted in 160,000 images (the most famous of which, Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" is to the right) that are housed in the Library of Congress and considered a national treasure. The project was conceived by a member of FDR's inner circle, and the president not only gave the go-ahead, but fought battles with Congress, which sought to defund the program because members felt the realistic and sad images reflected badly on the US.

Today, most historians consider FDR in the company of Lincoln and Washington as America's greatest presidents, and back in 2000 Time magazine chose Roosevelt as runner-up (to Albert Einstein) as the most important person of the 20th century. Despite the consequences of his paralytic illness, FDR stood up against fascism abroad and economic injustice at home. He fought the good fight like few presidents before or since. Now, in the midst again of war and economic uncertainty, I'd like to see President Obama stand tall and forcefully against the short-sighted, narrow-minded and self-serving opponents to his agenda of change.


N.starluna said...

One of Roosevelt's lesser known quips was made to a group of progressive reformers, including early civil rights leader A Phillip Randolph:

"I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do."

By this he meant that they cannot expect leaders to follow if they (the progressives) don't put push the leaders to do the right thing.

I respectfully submit that it is not Obama who must rise to the challenge, but perhaps the rest of us who must get off our arses and do the hard, time-consuming, frustrating work of organizing (or being organized) to put pressure on the President to do what we believe is right.

Or, to paraphrase Thomas Friedman, we don't just need better leaders. We need better citizens.

Jim said...

I've heard that FDR quote before and I agree with everything you said. I'm just not sure there's enough civic-minded people to push hard enough ... at least in the directions I want.