Here we are, a new day has dawned, we have a new President of the United States, and hope is yet again renewed. I am personally thrilled and overjoyed that Barack Obama is our new President. I absolutely believe that he is the right man, the right person, who has appeared at just the right moment in history - and not just U.S. history, I am speaking of our planet as well. We are, after all, citizens of the world, whether we like it or not. Over the course of this much too long election process, I have been collecting my thoughts, and waiting to express them. With the election now behind us, I am ready to share these few thoughts with anyone who cares, and has the patience, to read them.|
To be elected to public office, especially in this country, one can never really be completely honest, one can never really "tell the truth" as they might actually see it or believe it to be, for to do that would be to commit political suicide. Anyone who believes otherwise is a fool. And so, let us think back to this long, never-ending campaign, a campaign that tested the patience of everyone. In my opinion, there were three completely and totally honest things that were said. And, of course, all three were jumped upon by the press, and their supposed 'liberal bias' and, of course, the 'loyal opposition' those blessed Republicans. More to the point, all three comments that were stated had to be re-explained and, in a sense, the speaker had to distance himself or herself from their remarks. But, on this glorious day, please allow me to take a moment to reflect on each of those comments.
Here they are:
 When Michelle Obama said:
because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."
I believe that Mrs. Obama was being absolutely 100% honest when she said this, and, in my view, she should not have had to apologize to anyone for saying it. It is her right to feel this way, or any way she might feel. Sad as it is to say, it was just not a politically expedient thing to have said. She's a good American, a great American, with no less pride in her nation than the rest of us. Her experience here is just different than some of the rest of us. That's all.
I say this with no great pride, but I have not voted for the office of President in 40 years. At the time, when I could first vote, I was ready to support Robert F. Kennedy for all that I was worth. Of course, that dream was shattered by an assassin's bullet. And so, I was left to vote for Hubert H. Humphrey, which was a bitter disappointment in itself. And, of course, he lost to that bastard, Richard M. Nixon. In all the elections to follow, I never voted again, because I always felt that I was being forced to choose between "who is the least worst" of the two candidates. What kind of choice is that? When I heard Barack Obama speaking some years ago, I said to myself, "now this is a man that I could vote for!" Now, would I have believed that this could happen so soon? Never! Like most people of my particular way of thinking, it seemed inevitable that Hillary Clinton would be the candidate of the Democratic party. Though I might have voted for her, I would not have been nearly as excited, nor energized - nor filled with hope for our nation, or for the world.
Am I a proud American? Of course, you bet I am. As a musician, I have traveled the world to bring our music to anyone who might be willing to listen. The music I have chosen to play for my whole life comes from here, the U.S.A.!!! In the past 8 years, it has absolutely broken my heart, and nearly my spirit to see the good standing of the U.S. fall to such lows. Our nation is trashed in public, and private conversations all over the world. For those of you who do not travel this much, I can't tell you how very sad it is. But to be saying otherwise would be a complete and total fracturing of the truth.
I have been forced to think, and many times, in the countless hours of boredom in airports, airplanes, and endless hotel rooms about the pride I feel in my country, and what has happened to us as a nation. And, this did not begin just 8 years ago!!! No, not at all. The conclusion at which I arrived was that I am most proud of our 'spirit' as a nation. The fact is that, we are a creative people, and at our best, we invent things, and we solve problems. We solve our problems, and we solve the world's problems with our inventions. That is what we are capable of, and where has this gone? Once upon a time, our products were simply seen as the best. Yes, there were some fantastic items from Germany and England and other countries as well. And then, things began to shift, now Japanese products are routinely coveted over ours, where once they were actually laughed at. Now, our products are often laughed at.
Now, suddenly in 2009, we are going to solve our dependence upon foreign oil? Now, we are going to make fuel-efficient cars? Well, of course, it's not too late. But, IF we had really wanted to do this, we could have been working in earnest at it 35 years ago, and we would not be sitting here like this today. The auto and oil lobbies just didn't want anything to change, and so, here we are. In my heart, I just hope that it is not too late to put those same creative minds to work, and once the ideas are brilliantly formed, the world will line-up to once again purchase American products, products that are made and manufactured HERE, in the U.S.A.!!! As a nation, we have the minds and creativity to do these things. Now, more than ever, is the time to apply ourselves to these tasks, and to support President Obama in his desire to see such things blossom into realities. I believe that our 'national pride' would then be beaming from sea to shining sea and without a doubt!!! I would be so very proud to see this happening before my own personal light burns out.
I would also like to add the great pride I feel when the USA is almost always the first nation to reach out to another nation with humanitarian aid in a time of crisis - for example, a natural disaster of some sort. There are countless examples of this. We send billions of dollars in aid, and quickly. I am reminded of the catastrophic mudslides in the Vargas state of Venezuela where some 10,000-30,000+ people lost their lives. Of course in this case, our aid was refused by that despotic moron, Pres. Hugo Chávez.
Still I am left to wonder, if we can be so generous with other nations, where oh where is that same financial aid for our own citizens and states? Need I mention: New Orleans; Houston and its surrounding area; Florida's multiple hurricane damage; California and Arizona's wildfires; and the Minneapolis bridge collapse.
 When Barack Obama said:
or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Does this comment mirror my belief system too? Yes, absolutely. This is sadly, for better or worse, the way I perceive the bulk of this nation. Do I believe that religion should play any part at all in our political process? Absolutely not!!! No candidate should have to answer a damn thing about their personal spiritual beliefs. Such things are meaningless. Thomas Jefferson even said: "Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my god and myself alone." And, when responding to a letter from John Adams, he wrote: "If by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, 'that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it.' Jefferson is often attributed this quote, but, in truth, it is his interpretation of what he believed that John Adams was saying! Still, it is food for thought!
George W. Bush is a "man of God" and look at the endless stream of deaths he is, all or in part, responsible for! Osama Bin Laden is a "man of God" - his particular God, and look at his wonderful record of accomplishments for the betterment of his people! "Men of God" lead their nations, this God or that God, all over the world, and where are we? Should Mitt Romney have had to answer all those stupid questions about being a Mormon? No!!! And Barack Obama should not have had to face all that questioning about whether or not Jesus plays any part in his life. Is that really of any relevance? To me? No!!! Does he, or anyone else, have to wear a flag pin to be a patriot, to be in support of our brave and noble armed forces? Absolutely not! No one should have to do this. It is patently absurd. And yet, this is what our candidates have to do to be elected? I guess so, but to me, this is a national embarrassment.
Are we the tolerant nation, where religious freedom is concerned, that we always claim to be? I hardly think so. Just witness the Senate race between Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan in North Carolina. The truth is that we are not, and we are no closer to being more tolerant than perhaps we were at the dawn of the nation. How sad is that? This kind of behavior and thinking is pathetic.
In the end, one's spirituality is a very, very private matter, and no one should ever be forced to talk about it. Going to church, temple, or a mosque does not pardon unforgivable sins, for they have been committed, and other people have been deeply hurt. Are we now going to monitor how many Sundays Mr. Obama and his family go to church? Is that going to be the measure of his spirituality? Let us leave the man and his family alone, and let him do the job that he was elected to do. He should not have to end every speech with "God bless America!"
Our relationship as a nation with guns is no less absurd. This constitutionally protected "right" is so historically antiquated that it defies all logic. Look at the absurd spike in gun purchases during the latter period of this election process. It is frightening. What are people so damn afraid of? WHO are they so afraid of? But, they shouldn't worry, our brilliant Supreme Court just upheld their "right to bear arms" and who knows when there will be another test case. Someone please let me know when the British, Spanish, or French are returning to take "their" lands back!!! Yes, that's how absurd this 'right' is - at least to me!!!
And in a time of great economic depression, yes, I am going to use THAT word, Barack Obama is absolutely correct when he uttered those words that day. Walk down any avenue in New York City and see all the vacant storefronts. These properties have been vacant for months, some for more than a year. Over my nearly forty years in New York, I have never seen this happen to this degree. Great fear grips the nation as we are about to make this transition, and it is so sad that anyone would cling to these things, and not rely on our own ingenuity, talents and creativity to fight our way out of this situation, and on to a better day.
I am reminded of the countless speeches aired by both candidates and their running mates. While looking at the faces of the people standing behind McCain and Palin all I could see, etched on their faces, was anger and fear. And, on the faces of those standing behind Obama and Biden, the looks were all of hope, great hope!!! It marked a most striking difference between the two parties. Is this a perfect system of government? Hardly! But, it is the best one that we have, and so, we must all go on as the governed, and make adjustments accordingly.
 When Joe Biden said:
The world is looking. Remember I said it standing here, if you don't remember anything else I said.
Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.
And he's gonna have to make some really tough - I don't know what the decision's gonna be,
but I promise you it will occur. As a student of history, and having served with seven presidents,
I guarantee you, it's gonna happen."
And what about this great quote? An "International Crisis" of the gravity and proportion of the "Cuban Missile Crisis" - and then, our brilliant 'liberal' media with their "bias" does not follow this up immediately by questioning both McCain and Obama about the fact that Russian warships are either in the Caribbean RIGHT NOW, or, on their way there, for naval "exercises" with the blessing of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. No one is talking about this!!! Why?!?! Am I making this UP? Read this:
The first article I will present to you comes from REUTERS and was published on September 6th, 2008.
It's just one article concerning what is about to happen. O.K., here's another one....
The second article appeared in Great Britain's TELEGRAPH and was published on September 22nd, 2008. I am hoping that you all will take a moment to read through them both.
Could I have imagined this? No, not at all!!! And so, what is going to be said or done about this? I have no idea. But, cynics that they are, armed with their dislike, and complete lacking of respect for George W. Bush, both Putin and Chávez are going to thumb their noses at all of us. In 1962 would Kennedy have been thrilled to have known that a Russian nuclear battleship was in the Caribbean? What was McCain saying about this during the campaign? He who is so ready to 'lead' the nation - well, he said nothing!!! Absolutely nothing!!!
As for the threat of a terrorist attack, it seems logical that those who would plot against the USA would use the election, and the period of having a "lame-duck" President, to present a "challenge", a "test" for the USA. Whether it happens within our continental borders or somewhere else - any President will be handicapped, because we are NOT being attacked by a sovereign nation.
Where a figure like Bin Laden is concerned - "getting him" still comes down to a question of ethics and morals. When Pres. Clinton supposedly had him "in his sights" - he declined to "take him out" because, on that night, Bin Laden was meeting with an ally of of the USA. So, to kill Bin Laden would have meant killing an ally too!!! In short, it would have taken tremendous courage and certainty for Pres. Clinton to have 'pulled the trigger' on that one!!! So now, Obama might, or will, face the same dilemma. What does one do? What would you or I do? You can get Bin Laden, but how many innocent women and/or children must die alongside of him? That is the issue. Why didn't the media pose such a hypothetical situation to both candidates, and then have asked: "What would you do if you had Bin Laden, confirmed and in your sights, and you could kill him - but many innocent people, women and children included, would die as well? The answer to this, if they didn't dance around it, would have been most interesting.
I ask you, could you or I give the "go ahead" for such an act? I wonder. I don't know that I could do it - even though, from 1,000s of miles away I would never see the faces of suffering. Oops, yes I would, on news coverage, and for months and years, decades, I would be seen as a murderer of innocent women and children. Is it that easy to do this? I hardly think so. But, this is what our President might face!!! I wish him all the wisdom in the world to make such choices.
And what of the utter foolishness of "victory" in Iraq? If bombing countries "back to the stone age" can be considered a "victory" then I guess the USA could say that "we won the war"! We can probably "win" any "war" if that's the format. Or, if the "goal" was to remove Saddam Hussein from power, well, we certainly did that. So, I guess, "we won"!?! However, if Pres. Bush and Vice-Pres. Cheney had ever read and understood a single book by Tom Friedman about the Middle East, they would have known that the true risk of removing Saddam would be to throw the country of Iraq into civil chaos between the Sunnis, the Shiites, and the Kurds. And more than this, it throws the entire region into chaos, and, more than that, it empowers Iran. That's what we have had since Bush declared "mission accomplished." Here in the USA, we have to learn to stop thinking in terms of "winning" and be able to admit, despite the valiant efforts of our troops, that this is now a "war" that we can never truly "win." There should be absolutely no shame in that. There is no shame in admitting a grievous error in judgment at the top. Tom Friedman and others warned of this before the decision to embark down this path was taken, and no one in power listened. We have to find a way to change our thinking and learn to work better with others around the world. There will be no "victories" for any nation in any "wars" any longer. Everyone loses, and that includes the USA!!
Speaking of changing our ways of thinking, it would serve us all well to let go of the notion that we can "gift wrap" democracy, and just place it at the doorstep of any nation that we feel should be governed that way. Who are we to say how any nation should govern itself? This is yet another reason why we, as a nation, have become despised and resented around the world. Democracy may have worked for us, but, at best, we are still a work in progress, and serious adjustments are needed for us to be the best that we can be. Greed and wealth still steer the ship here, and that has got to change!
Another thought about our democracy, what about the obscene amount of money[over 2.5 billion dollars combined] spent by the candidates in order to be heard, to be seen, and to get elected? This is, to me, outrageous. It is an absurdity! These amounts probably outweigh the GDP of many smaller nations around the globe. Is this the best way to elect our president? There has to be something better than this. But, in the end, what it does show is that, in this case, those who supported Sen. Obama were so passionate about his candidacy that they invested their hard-earned dollars, in the middle of an economic crisis, to see that the best candidate had a chance, and could win.
Ah, one last issue. Taxes! Should we be afraid of higher taxes under Pres. Obama? Well, first of all, no one 'enjoys' paying taxes. But, we all pay our taxes and nothing is going to change that. Do I enjoy the thought that my tax dollars might be going towards a paint job on a ballistic missile? No, not at all! The mere thought of that distresses me greatly. If I could direct my tax dollars somewhere, I would head them towards the support for the arts, for public education, for public health care, and for medical research. But, none of us can say a damn thing about where our tax dollars go. But, if under Pres. Obama, we are then viewed as a better nation, as a whole, then I will be happy to pay what I am asked to pay - and certainly as long as those pigs at the very top of our economic food chain are paying more!
And so, we are now at the dawning of a new age, and I am so thrilled and proud that we have elected Barack Obama to be our President, our standard bearer for the next four years. Everyone knows that he faces unprecedented challenges, and no President has ever been left with a greater mess, thrown directly in his lap, before taking office.
And what of racism? Does this election victory signify that we are now finally past our racist history? The process of the election sadly reveals that we don't seem to be nearly close enough to that moment. Worst of all, the hidden racism, the masked racism in 'unexpected' regions of the country is the most sad and frightening aspect of all. Am I willing to say that "Yes, we have made some progress!"? Well, yes, I am willing to say that. But, not much more than that!
What about the education of our young people, ALL of our young people? We have already created 2-3 generations of functional illiterates. Our young people can barely speak English well, nor can they write well. With the absence of these very basic skills, what could they possibly be prepared to do to better their communities, cities, or our country? The answer is sadly "very little!" It's a tragedy. No President can fix this, because it is already done! But something has to change and fast.
Will there be mistakes, some errors in judgment here and there during this new Presidency? Of course there will be such moments. And people will asked to serve, and will then disappoint Pres. Obama. But, these things are going to happen, and we will need to be patient and forgiving. I have every confidence that Mr. Obama is the right man for this job, and that he will surround himself with the best thinkers available. To have someone of his intelligence, and who is a great public speaker - these facts alone make him a tremendous asset to our nation. We have been forced to listen to, perhaps, the worst public speaker, President Bush, in the history of this nation. To have had to listen to him, standing alongside Tony Blair, was torture and a national embarrassment, one that subjected all of us to ridicule the whole world over!
On this day, I am very proud be an American, and to stand behind President Obama! My hopes, and the hopes of the nation, now ride on his broad shoulders!!!
New York, NY
November 5th, 2008
Addendum - November 12th, 2016: With the election now a few days in the rear view mirror, we all must accept the results of what has happened, people from all sections of our nation, and the world as well, now begin to assess the 8 years of President Barack Obama. During the run-up to the election, the campaign, and since November 8th, I have been hearing, and from far more well-informed people than I, the word legacy used for this president's term in office. And, for as much as I have heard, I have not heard one single person offer what I am about to say here. And that is this....
In 2009, when Barack and Michelle Obama took over residence in the White House, the United States was at one of its lowest moments in terms of its perception by the people, the countries, and the leaders of the rest of civilized world. For the years prior to President Obama's election, I had been traveling around the world, and really, for the 1st time in my professional life as a musician, I had felt incredible hatred and resentment coming at the U.S. from wherever I traveled. Everything felt so very different, unlike any time before. It made me horribly sad, sad for all of us who, no matter what, love our country, and take great pride in being Americans, North Americans! So now, here we are, it is late 2016, and in only 71 days from now, Barack and Michelle Obama will leave the White House for the last time with their two wonderful daughters, Malia and Sasha, and I am going to miss this great, great family tremendously every day that will follow.
For me, President Obama's greatest accomplishment during his time in office was that, around the world, he restored, and elevated to new heights, the dignity of the office of the president, and the kind of respect and even love that we all would hope that our president would command and deserve. He spoke beautifully, and always in respectful, dignified and measured tones, and people, and world leaders listened. Whether or not they agreed with what was said is not necessarily the most important thing. They listened. Virtually everywhere Barack and Michelle Obama traveled, and represented us all so well, they were our Global Ambassadors of good will, and were greeted with the kind of adoration that we could only have hoped any person from the USA might receive. When they leave the White House, the Obamas will still have that, and they will always have it, because of the way that they have carried themselves, and spoke throughout these past 8 years.
When President Obama took office, he faced the daunting task of trying to correct the mess that had been left at his doorstep, and to try to do it with an excessively hostile congress waiting to fight him on any proposal that he might make to those bodies. How is one supposed to "accomplish" anything when facing that? Let us not forget the racial component too, Barack Obama had to be perfect in every detail, and, in many ways, he hardly made an error. Imagine living with that pressure alone. And so, with congress, he tried, and he tried, and he tried again, only to be rejected at almost every turn. So, on the legislation side of things, perhaps there might not be much to grab onto when looking back at those 8 years? But, think again, and remember just where our international posture was before 2009, and where it is now as he leaves office. Watch and listen to what happens as he makes his last trip to Europe as our president. And then, come January 20th of 2017, you watch and see how President Donald Trump is greeted and thought of around the world!!! When you have observed this, you will begin to realize, and perhaps finally appreciate just how wonderful the Obamas were at carrying us all with them. I, for one, am going to miss them both so very much, and I will be wishing them the very best of everything, good health, and happiness for the rest of their days. Thank you for everything Barack and Michelle Obama.
New York, NY
November 12th, 2016