Tuesday, November 4, 2008


This article was published in Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper on Sunday. It makes a detailed case for why Obama, and not McCain, must become America's new President.

Today, the American sense of self, of security, self-assuredness and invincibility, all once the hallmark of being American, is very battered. Therefore, this election, the challenge is not how to choose who responds to the whims of the people more, but rather whom the people and the nation desperately need to take the helm of a hurricane-battered national economy and psyche. On November 4, Americans must choose a President who can chart a new course for America to sail into the future, refitted or rebuilt, reinvigorated, and restored to a more than minimally wholesome functional condition.

From this perspective, the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama becomes very significant. It offers a bold and compelling opportunity for the American people to find the wisdom and courage to pick the president that America badly needs. Searching for a President in sober times is a completely different affair from picking one from the hat as it were, in good times. The question before the American electorate in the next few days is: Who Needs Whom More: Barack Obama or America?

America’s new leadership must pursue the new or renewed American dream while committing to fair and equitable room for the competing dreams of other nations and peoples rather than being constantly in conflict partly as a result of a single-minded pursuit of one national ambition that dismisses the dreams and passion of others. Having the courage, integrity and persuasion to guide the American people to understand this new global dispensation in which power and military might have become virtually obsolete, will be one of greatest challenges of the new President. And yet it is a task that must be done if Americans are to better understand the world they live in. The very idea itself of Americans having to fit into the world, rather than the other way round as they have always understood it, is itself, the core of the challenge.

In all of this, what then exactly are the necessary and compelling qualities and attributes required in the man whose task and responsibility it will soon be to lead in building this new America, and how does Barack Obama fill the ticket? There are twelve of them: The new President must be a profound visionary; possess exceptional intelligence; be inspired and inspiring; exemplify decency, honesty, integrity, transparency and candor; have extremely good judgment; be competent, diligent, and be in vigorous and robust health; be a team player, not a maverick; be calm and cool under fire, and yet have a will of steel and the guts to act quickly and decisively when compelled to; have a profound mastery of the art of listening; possess an informed and enlightened global perspective; have profound humility; and enjoy maximum confidence, trust and goodwill at home and abroad. Fortunately, he need not be a good dancer.

Of the two candidates, only Barack Obama possesses the totality of these critical attributes. Tried and tested by one of the most rigorous scrutinies of any candidate in America’s history, by the public, the media and his opponents alike, Barack Obama has demonstrated these attributes beyond dispute. If there is also a striking attribute that has won Barack Obama the respect and support of millions of once hesitant Americans, it is his remarkable fortitude, and the manner in which he has stayed the course, unwavering and undaunted in the heat of battle, and in the face of quite unprecedented assault. This is an important quality for a leader who not only must stay level headed in dangerous circumstances as these are, but must avoid reckless brinksmanship, being armed with so much destructive power.

Barack Obama is an all-American and a child of the world at the same time. He embodies the dreams and hopes of not just America, but of the world at large. That is why he is so much embraced by the world, an important asset because Americans love to be loved, and what better way to restore being loved than through the world loving their President?

What about the candidacy of Senator John McCain? Surprisingly, McCain has made much of being a maverick. A good President must, by purpose and definition, be a team-player---the captain of the team. The notion, therefore, of a maverick as an American President, even in good times, is an oxymoron, a woeful contradiction in terms. One cannot lead and be contrary. Put differently, a maverick is essentially anti-social, having little use for compromise. A maverick cannot be a political leader, and certainly not the kind of President America needs. There are a couple good examples of contemporary genuinely maverick heads of state, and one suspects that John McCain would not be too thrilled to be counted as one of their fraternity. In fact, he would be scandalized by the comparison. Artists, writers, athletes, performers, stand alone intellectuals, and private individuals have the priviledge of being mavericks, because the lives and fortunes of others, let alone of an entire nation, do not depend on them.

Through the primaries and a little into the general elections, John McCain’s campaign had substance, integrity, style, appeal and decency. That was until it lost its mind and focus, and deteriorated into a desperate struggle to win at all cost. His subsequent recklessness in not curbing the frenzy of dangerous outbursts amongst his frustrated supporters who have not learned how to lose with dignity and grace, but rather threaten public peace and security, and his mind-boggling abandonment of good judgment in selecting a running mate of less than acceptable intellect, no matter how smart, conspire to forfeit for him, the right to a job so critical and that he wants so badly.

As for this matter called “the race factor’, perhaps the time has come for every American of voting age to come to terms with this long overdue distraction. Barack Obama happens to be a black man, and that will not change. Even if it could, there is hardly enough time to do so. The candidacy of Barack Obama continues to be a bargain for Americans. They will be getting so much for the price of one. Americans have come a long way, and as the smart people that they are, they have the uncanny ability to rise above themselves to acts of courage when the occasion calls for it, and the opportunity lends itself. Barack Obama and his candidacy present America a great opportunity to offload the burden of the dark side of America’s history. November 4, 2008 has become the World Cup Finals of National and Global Politics. Billions of people will be watching and praying for a young man who embodies their deepest dreams. With Barack Obama as President-elect, America, and indeed the enlightened world, could not ask for a better present this Holiday Season.
Dr. Joseph O. Okpaku, Sr., a noted scholar, author and expert on development and strategic studies, is a founding and senior member of the Billion Minds Foundation. He is also the founder and publisher of Third Press Publishers, and the President and CEO of the Telecom Africa International Corporation, in New Rochelle, N.Y. Dr. Okpaku, a Nigerian, holds a B.Sc. Degree in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University, an M. Sc. Degree in Structural Engineering from Stanford University and a PhD in Dramatic Literature and Theatre History, both from Stanford University. This Article is an excerpt from a “Barack Obama and the Renewal of the American Dream”, a book in progress.

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If I may comment on this article...

I found it very compelling. The attributes specified as necessary for a President are definitely those I would look for in a President. After closely watching Obama during the last few years, I think he has many of those characteristics.

However, I found the analysis of McCain's maverick status to be one of the strongest parts of the article. Particularly, turning the very concept of 'maverick' on its head and clarifying what that attribute truly means from a political perspective. That was extremely eye opening for me. The way this author puts it, being a 'maverick' is actually a detrimental trait for a leader to have and I definitely agree. It should be interesting to see who actually wins this election. Thankfully, we will hopefully know the results in about 12 hours time, barring a repeat of the 2000 election fiasco.

Anonymous said...

The presidential election has been the most expensive in US history - costing $2.4bn, according to the non-partisan Centre for Responsive Politics is compelling reason that the mecca of mess that is the USA rocks. But did it have to cost so much? Barack Obama happens to be a black man is a statement I have always found offending. How many people have asked his mother that question? Dr. Joseph O. Okpaku, Sr does sound good but for a great & compelling info, just ask Tom Peters.

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