Moments with Obama



1. Poetical Moments of Obama: Originally Published Online on November 17, 2008

Many observers now believe that one of the most effective powers which helped Barack Obama to win the presidential election, among many other things, was his personal capability or power of words and poetry. In this article the Obama’s background in poetry, the remarks of some commentators and columnists on Obama’s knowledge of words, the poetical parts of Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park of Chicago are presented and reviewed.

As Guardian columnist Ian McMillan wrote, “We all have poems hidden away somewhere that we wrote when we were 19. It is a rite of passage, the teenage poem, like the first pint or the first kiss. And like the first pint or the first kiss, teenage poems are often sloppy and lukewarm and not as satisfying as they ought to be. Barack Obama’s poems were found in a literary review published in spring 1982 by Occidental College, a Los Angeles seat of learning that Obama briefly attended. The magazine was called Feast, because student literary magazines are always called things like that. Unless they are called something like Ashes, or something like Trombone Eggs. The Poem Pop is more suited to a magazine called Ashes. It is a portrait in free-to-middling verse of his grandfather, with whom the young Obama lived in Honolulu, and the lines roll along in a wonderfully American way. There is not a lot of formal structure to them, but he has obviously read the Beat poets and writers like Gary Snyder and Charles Bukowski, who knew that the simple words are the best ones, as long as you place them carefully on the page. There is a humanity in the poem, a sense of family values and shared cultural concerns that give us a hint of the Democrat to come; towards the end of the poem Obama sees his face ‘framed within/Pop’s black-framed glasses/and know he is laughing too’. He sees himself reflected in his grandfather”. The Poem Pop composed by Barack Obama reads as follows:
Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken

In, sprinkled with ashes,
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagram, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I’m sure he’s unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches, fail to pass.
I listen, nod, listen, open, till I cling to his pale,
Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies
But I don’t care anymore, because
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between two fingers.
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I’ve got on mine,
And makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shink, my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; because
I see my face, framed within
Pop’s black-framed glasses
And know he’s laughing too.

It should be noted that the terms Flim and Shink used in the above poem may sound odd and out of ordinary for many readers but they have various meanings which may be viewed online on the Urban Dictionary.

Here are some remarks expressed by some commentators and columnists on Obama’s knowledge of words:

In January 2007, the commentator Eskow from Huffington Post wrote that, “Obama knows words, and he knows how to use them”. In January 2008, the Washington Post columnist Dionne noted that, “Hillary Clinton may have unintentionally written the obituary for the Iowa and New Hampshire phase of her presidential campaign, and perhaps her candidacy, when she told voters on Sunday borrowing a phrase from former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, that ‘You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose’. Clinton has not heeded her own lesson. She is campaigning in prose and has left the poetry to Barack Obama”.

On 4th of November 2008 and in his victory speech in Grant Park of Chicago, Obama said that,

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place
Where all things are possible,
Who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time,
Who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen,
By people who waited three hours and four hours,
Many for the first time in their lives,
Because they believed that this time must be different,
That their voices could be that difference.
It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor,
Democrat and Republican, black, white,
Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled.
Americans who sent a message to the world
That we have never been just a collection of individuals
Or a collection of red states and blue states.
We are, and always will be, the United States of America.
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people.
Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness
And immaturity that have poisoned our politics for so long.
Let’s remember that it was a man from this state
Who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House,
A party founded on the values of self-reliance
And individual liberty and national unity. Those are values that we all share.
And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight,
We do so with a measure of humility and determination
To heal the divides have held back our progress.
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours,
We are not enemies but friends.
Though passion may have strained,
It must not break our bonds of affection.
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores,
From parliaments and palaces, to those
Who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world,
Our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared,
And a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
To those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you.
To those who seek peace and security: We support you.
And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright:
Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation
Comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth,
But from the enduring power of our ideals:
Democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.
America, we have come so far.
We have seen so much.
But there is so much more to do.
So tonight, let us ask ourselves,
If our children should live to see the next century; what change will they see?
What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call.
This is our moment.
This is our time, to put our people back to work
And open doors of opportunity for our kids;
To restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace;
To reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth,
That, out of many, we are one;
That while we breathe, we hope.
And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t,
We will respond with that timeless creed
That sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can”.

The Obama’s victory speech was not only politically and historically important but it was also an indication of the poetical background of Obama and his excellent knowledge of words and literature. Finally and for the record, the power of words and poetry helped Obama to win the presidential election so landslide that no other elected president could enjoy that power in the history of America.
CNN Politics Website (2008): Online Transcript of Obama’s Speech in Grant Park of Chicago on November 4, 2008.
Dionne, E. J. (2008): Online Article on Poetry versus Prose, Washington Post, January 08, 2008.
Eskow, R. J. (2007): Online Article on Obama On Healthcare: A Strong Start Raises Expectations, Huffington Post, January 25, 2007.
McMillan, I. (2007): Online Article on the Lyrical Democrat, the Guardian, Thursday March 29 2007.
Saadat Noury, M. (2008): Various Articles and Notes on Poetry.
Urban Dictionary Website (2006): Online Notes on the Definitions of Flim and Shink.

2. Obama and the Power of WWW: Originally Published Online on December 2, 2008

INTRODUCTION: In a previous communique entitled as “Poetical Moments of Obama”, this author noted that, “Many observers now believe that one of the most effective powers which helped Barack Obama to win the presidential election, among many other things, was his personal capability or power of words and poetry”. Discussing on the effective powers that helped Barack Obama to win that election cannot be completed if we do not take into account the other significant powers that he enjoyed during his campaign. Those powers may be listed as the powers of Women’s wisdom, and Web technology.
WOMEN’S WISDOM: On 26 February 2008, Martin Linsky the co-founder of Cambridge Leadership Associates and a longtime faculty member at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in his article published in Newsweek referred to the power of feminine wisdom of Obama and wrote that Obama has a distinct wisdom in five important ways, with approaches that are usually thought of as qualities and values that women bring to organizational life. He categorized those five important ways in a list as follows, “1. Commitment to inclusiveness in problem solving, 2. Deep optimism and. modesty about knowing all the answers, 3. The courage to deliver uncomfortable news, 4. Not taking on all the work alone, and 5. Willingness to air dirty linen”.
WEB TECHNOLOGY: On 6 November 2008, Agence France-Presse (AFP) referred to the role of Web Technology and Internet and reported that, “Obama’s history-making victory in the US presidential race not only gives the nation its first African-American commander-in-chief, it puts a technology-savvy politician at the country’s helm”. AFP also quoted analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley who said that, “Obama likes technology and part of the reason he executed so well is that he used technology so effectively. That makes him a tech president”.
On 28 November 2008, Rajini Vaidyanathan of BBC News in Washington wrote that, “On election night, as it became clear that Barack Obama had won the election to become the 44th president of the United States, his supporters received an e-mail in their inboxes.
It started like this: ‘I am about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made history. And I do not want you to forget how we did it’. With a personal sign off at the end saying ‘Thank you, Barack’, it felt intimate, yet this was a mass e-mail, sent to the millions who had subscribed to Barack Obama’s campaign alerts. It is just one example of how the president-elect has used the internet to communicate and create a dialogue with supporters. The Obama campaign’s effective use of new media played a big part in his success”.
CONCLUSION: WWW does not only stand for World Wide Web, it is also a symbol for the collective powers of Words and poetry, Women’s wisdom, and Web technology as Barack Obama may see it!
AFP Report (2008): Online News on “Obama, the First Tech President”.
Linsky, M. (2008): Online Article on “Obama, the First Female President”.
Saadat Noury, M. (2008): Online Article on “Obama and the Power of Poetry”
Vaidyanathan, R. (2008): Online Article on “Barack Obama’s plans for the web”.

3. Inaugural Moment of Obama: Originally Published Online on January 21, 2009

During last 24 hours, many people around the world were possibly bombarded by the various analyses and comments published in different journals, both online or on paper, about the inaugural speech of Barack Obama on 20th January 2009. Barack Obama, a Democrat, was sworn in on the steps of the Capitol as the 44th US president around noon EST, taking over from President George W Bush, a Republican. Here is a brief selection of those analyses and comments:
Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser: “My first impression: a memorable inaugural address. There have not been many in my experience interestingly, Bush’s first, eight years ago, was one. But Bush had little to do with the writing of that speech; Obama clearly wrote this one, as any reader of his books could immediately attest. I was also struck by the shots he took at Bush, with the outgoing president sitting right there. Think how Bush heard this line: Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America”.
American radio host Rush Hudson Limbaugh: “Remember, yesterday, CNN had a lead story in which they suggested that the words in the inaugural address would be “chiseled into marble.” So, as I say, it’s a very disjointed speech. It’s impossible to honestly analyze this. It was a clunker. It tried to be all things to all people, tried to have memorable line after memorable line. As such there were no memorable lines”.
The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: “Walking back from the inauguration of our first black president, I saw an African-American street vendor wearing a home-stenciled T-shirt that pretty well captured the moment – and then some. It said: “Mission Accomplished”. But now that we have overcome biography, we need to write some new history – one that will reboot, revive and reinvigorate America. That, for me, was the essence of Obama’s inaugural speech, and I hope we – and he – are really up to it”.
Various Columnists and Commentators: When President Obama said that, “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist”,… he was talking most likely to the rulers of Iran.
Commentator David Ignatius: “The message to the world was similarly blunt. Here again, Obama avoided the easy grace notes and told people some hard truths. To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect, he said. That was precisely the right message. Obama’s presidency won’t be about sweet talk and mediation; we aren’t going to sing “Kumbaya” around a global campfire. The dialogue will be about interests. That’s the kind of negotiation that the cunning bargainers of Damascus and Tehran understand, and it’s the right starting point. I especially liked Obama’s message to terrorist adversaries of the United States – people who believe that his election was a sign that the United States has gone soft; people who remain convinced that the decadent West is losing, and that they are winning. As Obama said, for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you”.
The Group Blog of MyDD: “The speech sets a tone of bipartisanship in Washington and that Obama wants to be pragmatic rather than ideological. The speech gives him a good start in his presidency. But Obama’s inauguration will be remembered most by its exciting atmosphere and images. The mall was packed with two million people, a mark that may not be passed for generations. There were so many faces of color in the crowds, and the image of the first African-American taking the oath of office will always be remembered. People will remember that Obama gave a good speech, but there was never a The only thing we got to fear is fear itself, or Ask not what you can do for your country moment in the speech. Thus, the words of the speech itself will not be remembered, except by a few historians”.
Epilogue: Finally and for the record, here are top three lines to remember from the Obama’s inaugural address as selected by this author:
1. The world has changed, and we must change with it.
2. In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that the greatness is never a given. It must be earned.
3. We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again.

Friedman, T. (2008): Online Article on Why I hope Obama truly is a radical.
Ignatius, D. (2008): Online Article on Hard Truths at the Outset.
Kaiser, R. G. (2008): Online Article on Analysis: President Obama’s Swearing-in Ceremony.
Limbaugh, R. H. (2008): Online Notes on Obama’s inaugural address.
Obama, B. H. (2008): Online text of the inaugural address.
Various Sources (2008): News, Notes, and Articles published by Montreal Gazette, the New York Times, and Washington Post.

View the Persian & English Texts of the Inaugural Address of President Obama.

4. Obama & the Question of the Cradle of Civilization: Originally Published Online on March 4, 2009

On 27 February 2009, in a speech to military troops and officers at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, President Obama as a commander in chief declared that the United States will withdraw most of its troops within 18 months and embark on a new strategy based on diplomacy and regional engagement. “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by 31 August 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end,” he said. Obama also spoke directly to the Iraqi people and said, “You are a great nation, rooted in the cradle of civilization. You are joined together by enduring accomplishments, and a history that connects you as surely as the two rivers carved into your land”. Many observers wonder which nation President Obama refers to with a root in the cradle of civilization (in Persian: Gahvareh-e Tamaddon). Let us turn to the pages of history:
PAGE 1- IRAQI AND IRAQ: There was neither any nation as Iraqi nor any country as Iraq in the ancient times. The country which is called Iraq was made or founded by British authorities between 1921 and 1926. In fact, at the end of World War I, the League of Nations granted the area to the United Kingdom as a mandate. It initially formed two former Ottoman regions of Baghdad and Basra into a single country in August 1921. Five years later, in 1926, the northern region of Mosul was also added, forming the territorial boundaries of the modern Iraq.
PAGE 2- THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION: The region of Iraq was historically known as Mesopotamia (Greek: between the rivers). It was home to the world’s first known civilization, the Sumerian culture, followed by the Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures, whose influence extended into neighboring regions as early as 5000 BC. These civilizations produced some of the earliest writing and some of the first sciences, mathematics, laws, literature, poetry and philosophies of the world; hence its common epithet, the “Cradle of Civilization”. In the sixth century BC, Cyrus the Great conquered the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and Mesopotamia was subsumed in the Achaemenid Persian Empire for nearly four centuries. Alexander of Macedon conquered the region again, putting it under Hellenistic Seleucid rule for nearly two centuries. A Central Asian tribe of ancient Iranian peoples known as the Parthians later annexed the region, followed by the Sassanid Persians. The region remained a province of the Persian Empire for nine centuries, until the seventh century AD.
PAGE 3- ROLE OF IRANIANS IN NAMING AND BUILDING BAGHDAD: In his article on First Iranians who Planned the City Design of Baghdad, this author noted that, “Though the origin of the city’s name is uncertain, some believe Baghdad is from the Persian for “God Given” derived from God (in Persian: bagh) and Given (in Persian: daadeh), while others believe it is from the Persian for “Garden of Justice” derived from Garden (in Persian: baagh) and Justice (in Persian: daad). When Baghdad was first founded, a circular wall was built around it, and Baghdad became known as the “Round City”. The roundness of course points to the fact that it was based on Persian precedents such as Firouzabad (in the province of Fars in present-day Iran). In fact, it is now known that the two designers who were hired by Mansur to plan the city’s design were two Iranians named Naubakht-e-Parsi, a former Persian Zoroastrian, and Mashallah-e-Assiri, a former Jew from Khorassan, a northeastern province in present-day Iran”.
EPILOGUE: The first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature Pearl Buck (1892-1973) once said, “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday”. And the American author Michael Crichton (1942-2008) noted that, “Professor Johnston often said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything; you were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree”.
Quotegarden Website (2009): Online Quotations about History.
Rhee, F. (2009): Online Notes on “Obama announces Iraq pullout plan”.
Saadat Noury, M. (2005): Online Article on First Iranians who Planned the City Design of Baghdad.
Saadat Noury (2009): Various Articles on the History of Iran.
Various Sources (2009): News on the speech of President Obama at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2009): Online Notes on Iraq.

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD


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