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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 23, 2009 at 4:10 PM

The new man in the White House

Associated Press

President Obama talks to reporters at a Friday meeting on the economy.

Time to dust ourselves off

Editor, The Times:

I am proud to be an American. And I am happy that we, as a country, have survived the almost medieval dark ages of the past eight years.

Although it is notable and wonderful that an African-American has achieved the nation’s highest office, it’s more important that we have someone who meets important qualifications for this office. To me, the president must be a person that has a history of achieving world-class standards of competence, who exhibits world-class leadership skills, has world-class intelligence sharpened by a world-class education and has world-class integrity and vision.

During the election, I was irritated by rhetoric using the word “elite” to somehow belittle those who aspire to high office. “Elite” means “the best.” The president should be part of America’s elite. Not only America, but the entire world needs the U.S. president to both embody and represent the best of what America can be.

Many times this week and on inauguration day, we heard that all childrencan be anything they want to be. This isn’t a new realization or dream, but it feels new again and that’s exciting.

However, this dream needs to be clarified. Children can be anything they want to be if they develop clear goals, prepare to achieve their goals, are determined to achieve their goals and are willing and able to do the work their goals require. This may sound like a lot, but it’s exactly how President Barack Obama came to this moment.

Children can be encouraged that they only need to begin with one goal and a single step. The rest can come over time.

In the film “Oh, God,” a little girl asks God why he doesn’t take care of us, and he responds, “That’s why I gave you each other.” Our country is a mess, but the president’s speech challenged each of us to dust ourselves off and go to work to get our country back in shape. The job will be difficult, but not impossible, because not only do we have each other, we have a great leader. God bless America.

— Michael Kysar, Bellevue

Muscular policies are welcome

The inauguration of President Obama is historic in nature. It’s inspiring to many millions of Americans and doubtless millions worldwide. It represents the possibility for new beginnings. It cannot be ignored that the hearts of many Americans that have been directly affected by the meanness of bigotry are lifted in a powerful and meaningful way.

We can be grateful for a nation in which power is transferred with civility and even graciousness. We can be thankful that no terrorist event or domestic upheaval marred the day.

But, as our new president says, the day of celebration has passed and the days of hard work ahead are here.

The nation is far from healed. While the election results were clear — and thankfully did not require recounts or judicial fiat — provocative policy shifts to the left will deepen the chasm of suspicion and spark animus anew.

Specifically, the retention of Defense Secretary Robert Gates signifies the acknowledgment of a currently correct (thought, curiously, refuted) policy in the war in Iraq. The immediate and irrevocable withdrawal of troops touted early in the Obama campaign are thankfully now reconsidered; the possibility of another democratically stable partner in the Middle East remains. A muscular policy toward the heinous al-Qaida in Afghanistan and the rest of the world is also welcome.

Issues still on the table are the debate of what size and influence government should have in our lives. The president suggests a larger role when the opposition still simmers over bloated programs administered by the Bush administration: fair taxation that stimulates economic growth and not entitlement, the issue of protecting the unborn, and how to responsibly use legitimate science to determine outcomes for our planet and society.

Let us hope and pray this administration does not miss the opportunities placed before it by returning to tired, activist-driven policy predicated on re-election. May the Obama administration govern toward the center and truly bring this nation together.

— Mark Bowers, Issaquah

A reminder of American ineligibility

My youngest son and I listened to the excitement of the inauguration events as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th U.S. president.

The news media repeatedly speak of the historic significance of President Obama being the first African-American president. Again and again, they reiterate how his election confirms the ideal that in this country all things are possible — that anyone, given talent and ambition, can rise to service in this country’s highest office.

But, I had to explain to my son that he cannot. He is limited by his birth in Southeast Asia, even though he was adopted on American soil at the age of 3 and has full American citizenship by international and domestic law.

There are thousands of children and adults that share my son’s status. Children who, especially in the past 20 years, left their countries of origin for the hope of new families and the opportunities this country has to offer. As these children and adults become more numerous, more vocal and are called to serve, we, as a nation, may need to carefully reconsider our definition of “American” and whether we can limit any individual’s potential.

We, as a family, are proud of our son’s heritage but it is heartbreaking to explain to him that he can never aspire to his country’s highest office. International adoptees add to the richness and diversity of the families and communities they join. As their numbers increase, the U.S. government and its people will have to decide if they are ineligible to serve the country of their citizenship due to the geographic location of their birth.

— Cherie White, Shoreline

Inspiring, selfless service

As I sat in my second-period history class watching President Obama take the oath of office with 30 of my students last Tuesday, I felt, like so many of us, the overwhelming sense of hope and promise embodied in this man standing before us all.

Hope and promise beam from the now 44th president, who still claims to be nothing more than a public servant. Service to the community is something we teach strongly at Centennial Middle School in Snohomish and something my leadership students are learning firsthand.

Over the holidays, one of my students lost his mother in a horrible traffic accident, leaving his 33-year-old father with five kids — aged 2, 4, 6, 8 and 12 years –to raise on his own. Confronted with this tragedy, the students in my leadership class decided to put into action that which President Obama stated in his New Era of Service speech: “Don’t underestimate the power of people to pull together and to accomplish amazing things.”

With this in mind, my students began a fundraiser, selling shirts to raise money for the grief-stricken family.

The most difficult task for us was locating a screen printer willing to donate time and service to our cause. In the end, we found Kevin Padon, the owner and operator of Norwest Graphics in Seattle. Padon became the physical embodiment of Obama’s words: “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” Coming in early, working through lunch and staying late, he helped us reach our goal of selling 1,000 shirts and donating more than $6,000 to the family.

So often we get caught up reading about our weakening economy, struggling banks and auto industry and massive job cuts, that we don’t hear the local stories of people pulling together to help out those in need.

It is my great hope that Kevin’s service to our project and, in fact, to his country does not go unnoticed. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “When you give, move your feet, not your lips.”

— Dave Larson, Snohomish

The real “empty vessel” left office

I read with amusement about the conservatives unable to watch or listen to the inauguration [“Inauguration? ho-hum,” Times, Local News, Jan. 22]. All I can say is: Now they know what it has felt like for most of us for the past eight years.

As for saying that President Obama did not say what he was going to do and sounded like an “empty vessel,” maybe they are just too young or just want to ignore that the real empty vessel lifted off in a helicopter the same day as the inauguration. Not only could their man not talk, he did not have a whole lot rumbling around inside of him — he never has.

In contrast, the present vessel is eloquent and intelligent and expresses himself in a loftier manner through words of meaning and substance. Only those without these qualities would miss it. Sorry, you conservatives missed it.

— Lucy Oaks, Redmond

Re-examining our roots

Hopefully your readers and others wont take offense or find it alarming when Thomas L. Friedman [“Swing for the fences, Mr. President,” syndicated columnist, Jan. 22] employs the word “radical” in his column. After all, this term has been a misnomer in too many instances years passed, always overlooking its true meaning, “from the root.”

Most of us know and understand that our system of doing things has to be changed from the ground up. We must go back to ” the roots” and look for the values to be found there.

— Ruth Quiban, Seattle

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