One of the most remarkable events in the history of the American presidency was unfolding.
“…that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.”
With his right hand raised, and his left hand resting gently on the Koran handed down to him from his great grandfather, and now held out by his wife, Mariam Roxana, the 55-year-old Senator of the National Independent Party of Citizens (NIPOC) was about to walk into history, leaving in his wake the increasingly ineffective and marginalized Democratic and Republican Parties whose decades of bickering and gridlock had left the ordinary citizens outraged and disillusioned.
“…and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States…”
Just four more words.
“… So help me God.”
The first Iranian American and the first Moslem had just been sworn in as the fiftieth President of the United States.
Only slightly less remarkable to the occasion was whom Shirazi had picked as his running mate: Michael Luther King, a distant relative of the immortal African American who, decades earlier, had inspired the nation with his “I have a dream” speech just a few blocks away on the Mall. Bearing a striking resemblance to the slain civil rights leader, and with his Israeli-born wife standing beside him, King was one of the closest eyewitnesses to the astonishing historical moment unfolding before the world audience.
It all began in Orange County, California. On the night of May 6, 1981, Cyrus Darius Shirazi personally announced his arrival to the world. It was said no baby had ever cried so loud in the maternity ward of Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. That should have been the first clue to the country that this baby was going places. His parents, Hassan and Parvin Shirazi, part of the huge immigrant wave of Iranians of the late seventies, named him after the two famous Persian kings, not out of any imperious designs for their son, but purely as a way to preserve, within their own souls, the memories of their now distant homeland.
Cyrus excelled in every school and college activity he took part in: always an A-student, captain of football teams, president of his classes, president of debating clubs, etc. Some of his schoolmates would tease him by calling him “Mr. President”. Since his father's corporate job had taken him and his family all over the country and the world, by the time Cyrus graduated from high school with a 4.0 average in Houston, Texas, he was fluent in four languages: English, Persian, Arabic, and Spanish.
He would often say that language was his first love — and his talent for it was undeniable. He took special pride in the fact that he was able to read and write Farsi, thanks to the patience and persistence of his parents who believed that culture and language were crucial to their son's sense of identity. Cyrus considered himself a Moslem though, like his parents, not a practicing one. He had always felt at home whether he was attending mass in Boston, a Bar Mitzvah in Brooklyn, or a funeral service in a mosque in Dearborn, M ichigan.
Cyrus was a junior history major at Yale when terrorists struck the nation on September 11, 2001. He had spent the previous weekend in New York City, including a visit to the south tower of the World Trade Center. If the attacks grieved the nation, it turned Cyrus inside out. After paying his respects to the murdered victims at Ground Zero, he took long walks on the shores of Long Island, a totally transformed person.
In the days that followed, he listened to the outpouring of grief and sympathy from around the world, including many in Iran who lit candles in the streets of Tehran. Yet he knew that much more were required. No, this national tragedy demanded something much more than just flowers and words of support and sympathies. This was too big not to require a far greater commitment and personal example.
He withdrew from Yale and joined the Marines. Within a year, following his training at Camp Pendleton, he was bound for Iraq. He had spent every spare minute brushing up on his Arabic, with particular focus on the Iraqi dialect. His courage under fire at Fallujah was there for all to see, but what distinguished him most from many of his fellow marines was his negotiating skill in Arabic with the local population who quickly trusted him and warmed up to his sincere desire to help them through the historic transition taking place in their liberated country. When he was shot in the arm and the knee by a sniper, the local residents rushed to his help just ahead of his fellow marines.
The surgeons on the hospital ship in the Persian Gulf fixed his arm but could not save his leg. Decorated and honorably discharged from the military, Cyrus returned to his parents' home in Irvine, California, to convalesce. If he could no longer serve the nation in uniform, he knew what was the next best thing. He resumed and completed his history degree at Yale, went on to obtain his law degree at UCLA, and took a position in the Public Defender's office in Santa Ana.
Two years later, when a congresswoman's seat unexpectedly became vacant, he ran on a pro-immigration and pro-business platform and was elected to Congress by the largest majority in the history of the country. Quite simply, voters could not resist his brilliant intellect, fluency in Spanish, demonstrated courage on the battlefield, sincere concern for people, oratory not heard of since John Kennedy, and a passionate belief in the U.S. Constitution. And, well, his classic Persian good looks and natural charm did not hurt, nor did his attractive family: wife, Mariam (a Christian Armenian), son, Kayvon, and daughters, Yas, Manoosh, and Shirin.
Re-elected to Congress twice, Cyrus became more and more confident of his own capabilities and originality. He recognized that the old ways of two political parties were no longer working, nor meeting the needs of citizens. With sheer energy and irrefutable conviction, he persuaded some 100 congressmen and congresswomen, all of incredibly diverse backgrounds and creeds, to join him in the new party, NIPOC, whose motto was simple but not exactly original: e pluribus unum — towards a more Perfect Union! Most other politicians seemed to have forgotten this most basic of all American creeds. But the people had not.
If John Kennedy's idea of the New Frontier had given people of his generation goose bumps, Shirazi's idea of a new party and its deep rooted creed galvanized the average Joe and Jane to believe once again that the political process could, indeed, make a Perfect Union possible. And no one had to think very far about who was the natural choice for a leader to take them there.
Shirazi was soon elected by Californians to the US Senate where he served with distinction on every committee on which he served. By the time 2035 rolled around, he had gained the affection and respect of the vast majority of NIPOC, not to mention the people of the country as a whole. Moreover, the quality, charisma, and trustworthiness of the man had not gone unnoticed by rest of the world.
In that year on his birthday, in the historic Ambassador's Hotel in downtown Los Angeles where Bobby Kennedy had kept his fateful rendezvous with Sirhan Sirhan, flanked by his family, parents, and representatives of just about every ethnic group in the country, Cyrus Darius Shirazi announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America.
“Congratulations”, beamed the Chief Justice of the United States, as the Marine band played “Hail to the Chief” and the 21-gun salute ushered in the nation's fiftieth President.
Shirazi had decided long ago to write his own inaugural speech, and to keep the text secret. He was where he was because of who he was, and he wasn't about to let some ideologue speechwriter tell him what to say to the very people who had elected him as their president. This, of all his speeches, had to be pure him.
The temperature had warmed up by this time, thanks to the glorious sunshine that was beaming down on Shirazi's audience. The zillion snowflakes on the bare branches of the surrounding trees were melting slowly, turning each snowflake into its own unique prism, diffracting the sun's rays into the colors of the rainbow.
The President began.
“My fellow Americans and fellow citizens of the world: the guiding inspiration of my life has always been the miraculous poems of Saadi — how any man, born and raised in poverty, could have written such rhyming poetry and lessons in everyday life over a thousand years ago, is humbling beyond words. In his honor, and in gratitude to him for helping me shape my own principles and values, I would like to quote perhaps the best-known lines of that revered son of Shiraz:
Bani aadam azaayeh yek deegarand
Keh dar aafarinesh zeh yek goharand
These lines will have a place of honor in the Oval office, as they do already in the main hall of the United Nations in New York, so that I can be reminded every day of what we should all be about. If we get this right, we will rarely go wrong.
What amazing changes for the better we have witnessed over the past thirty years or so. The United States of America is now but one of eight united states which are governing the people of the world in an era of unprecedented harmony and prosperity: the United States of Latin America, the United States of Europe, the United States of Africa, the United States of the Middle East, the United States of the Russian Territories, the United States of Australasia, and the United States of Asia. We are honored to have among us today all seven presidents of these united states.
The colonies on the Moon and Mars are inhabited by people from all eight united states. It was through the flawless cooperation and ingenuity of the people of these states that we were able to deploy one hundred rockets with nuclear warheads with which we were able to destroy the massive asteroid that was heading to earth, thus saving our beautiful planet from certain extinction.
Every disease known to man has been conquered by the astounding progress in genetics, thanks to which we are also now within reach of being able to stay at any age we want. This will have the most profound, lasting impact on our world and its societies. We have to use this biotechnology wisely and with the full understanding of the consequences of eternal life.
The details of my administration's policies, goals, and programs will shortly be uploaded onto our party's website. Please go to www.nipoc.org for full details. But here is a quick summary of what we plan to do.”
For the next twenty minutes, President Shirazi listed and explained his programs.
“So, my fellow citizens of the world, let us build on the good works of our predecessors. Much will be asked of all of us. I believe we will rise to the occasion.
Finally, let the world know of my gratitude to this country for the opportunities afforded to me and to my fellow Iranian-Americans. We hope we have reciprocated to some small measure by gifting our children, our energies, and our talents to the continuing greatness of this land. God bless you, God bless America, and God bless the united states of the world.”