Posts Tagged ‘obama’

Reflecting On My President – MLK Day 2017

January 16, 2017
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A new arrival at the National Portrait Gallery in 2008

As I watch 60 Minutes and their interviews with President Obama I realize how I admire his thoughtful tone and quick wit. I’m going to miss him. He is the president of my children’s adulthood and I have found him to be both pragmatic and diplomatic. I admit I am at a loss for the vitriol thrown at him. I wish he had done more, but I still am proud of what he did accomplish against the constant tide of false accusations and roadblocks. What accomplishments I hear my naysayer friends demand. I can explain.

Let me set the stage leading up to this man’s presidency – not the two wars and the crashing economy – I want to get more personal. My family had been denied health insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions when I changed jobs and our family planning decisions were altered because of the religious affiliation of my wife’s workplace – their conditions for insurance. My previous employer was being taken over by a corporation from Singapore and was being shut down. We had grown at a time of housing loans granted at 120% of a property’s value so customers were installing very profitable for us home entertainment systems based on the idea their home value would always go up, but that bubble had burst. I was losing my job and my 401k was in the toilet.

For me then it is easy to find this administration’s success – My 401k is back better than ever, I am employed in a new career after going to school using the extended benefits for retraining and gaining experience under the Obama stimulus package. My children were able to be insured under our family plan until age 26 under the ACA, and now, if we need to change jobs, we still get coverage. No longer are career choices being held hostage to a workplace whose insurance covered us before those “pre-existing” conditions show up. My children are able to follow their own paths – my son works for a biotech company and my daughter is in nursing school – free of that burdan. I couldn’t be prouder.

But my admiration for the Obamas goes deeper than that. My nephew, Kelley, worked on his campaign and, later, worked in the White House Office of Correspondence. Through him I heard the stories of the First Family, sitting Sasha and Malia, helping with the White House Easter egg roll. One of the most amazing things he showed me was where he worked – not in the White House proper, but in rented office space a few blocks away.

Into this space poured millions (literally) of pieces of mail that had to be read, sorted, and catalogued. Some letters had serious concerns about healthcare or the economy, others, less serious, like second graders learning how to address an envelope and a letter to the president in one lesson. All received the same treatment coming in, but a few were selected each week to move on to the desk of the president. Those letters were chosen to give an overall sense of what was motivating people to write, be it good or bad, and a few picked because they had problems the President could solve. Mr. Obama would hand write replies to these regular Americans who took time to write to their president.

Through my nephew I was able to visit the White House a couple of times (and even got smooched by Bo!) and toured the West Wing. On display in the halls was student artwork and photographs of various events across the country. They were changed often to remind those occupying the offices in that wing who they really worked for.

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Kelley was able to get my wife and I on the lawn for a Marine One take-off. He told me I needed a suit coat and tie as a guest of a White House staffer. We raced around DC that morning trying to find a place open to buy the requisite outfit and when we arrived we were ushered onto the lawn and lined up. Then, from around the side, came forty or fifty folks in tee shirts and shorts randomly selected from the tourists taking pictures of the White House. They were lined up in front of us. Kelley told me that we had to stand behind the tourists because the staff were all instructed to be sure they never used their positions to advantage themselves above the people they were there to serve.

This all happened during a time when I visited D.C. often. The school I worked for sponsored an 8th grade trip to Washington and my son was living there, working for companies that contracted to the State and Defense departments. When I was chaperoning the school trips Kelley would come to meet our middle school group on the blocked street behind the White House. He would bring an auto-pen signed picture of the First Couple for the school and answer questions for the kids. He did this on his own time. I would introduce him to my students with great pride explaining that here was a kid only a few years older than they were (from my perspective), from a family not much different than theirs, who was now working in the most powerful office in the world. The kids were more intrigued with his two cell phones (one a White House issue Blackberry and the other a personal iPhone) and stack of ID badges.

When Kelley left to take a job with the EPA he was granted an exit interview with his boss. Kelley arranged for his mom and dad to be there while the President of the United States shook his hand and thanked him for his service there in the Oval Office. Mr. Obama took time to chat with everyone and made sure pictures were taken (you can’t bring your own camera). My brother said he almost cried. You can almost see that in the picture.

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And that’s the thing with this president – it really isn’t ever about him – it’s about the office. Mr Obama came to up to be at the graduation of Worcester Voc and to bring attention to a school program he felt was exemplary. He didn’t just make his speech and have his photograph taken, he stayed, passed out diplomas and shook the hand or hugged every graduate of that very large class with as much enthusiasm for the last as the first. He made it their graduation.

And that is his accomplishment. He kept the Office of the President accessible to all the people. As other world leaders were vying for his attention many everyday concerns were brought to him  and he found a way to answer both. He was often harshly criticized and sometimes deservedly so, but he always listened. Reading the hurtful, ignorant, racist remarks directed at him, his wife and his family in comment sections of newspapers and social media and his not using the nuclear option makes him a far better person than me. Today, I know Mr Obama’s presidency was not about the color of his skin, but about the content of his character. He stayed above the ugliness beneath him for the dignity of the office and, for that, he will always be my president.

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Let’s compare and contrast…

November 6, 2016

nintchdbpict000280104910-e1478358256253   Donald Trump

The other day at a rally for Hillary Clinton a man stood up and vocally advocated for Donald Trump. The crowd booed and shouted at him. President Obama, at the podium, reminded the Hillary supporters that this is America, the man has a right to express his opinion, pointed out the man was wearing a uniform, guessed he was a vet and reminded all that he deserves their thanks for his service. The crowd calmed and the rally moved on.

The other day at a rally for Donald Trump a man stood up holding a sign that said “Republicans against Trump.” The crowded booed and shouted at him. Donald Trump, at the podium, shaded his eyes and taunted the protester with questions of whether he was a paid Hillary plant where upon the crowd beat and kicked the man. Someone shouted “GUN!”, the Secret Service rushed the candidate off stage until the man could be taken from the venue.

Even more disturbing than this difference in reacting to an adversary is Trump’s retelling  of the incident with Obama at a later rally. He has Obama taunting and shouting at the man during the Clinton event, easily disproved with so many videos of the encounter, but this doesn’t inform Trump’s rhetoric.

This is not a case of liar, liar – that devolves quickly into the useless “how can you tell when a politician’s lying? when their lips are moving” meme. This is disturbing because this is the lens Donald sees the world through. A view that distorts reality so much that he believes that is how the event went; he believes the birther crap (retraction notwithstanding); he believes he is a supporter of women (especially the real lookers), and that Mexico will pay for a wall (even though, early on, he admitted it was just line to use when a rally got quiet).

Say what you will about Hillary, at least her eyes are seeing the real world (and not the one on MTV).

Since it’s all about me…

August 14, 2012
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The Market on election day in 2008

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Ask yourself, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” and the pundits say in the privacy of the voting booth people vote their best interest. Am I better off? What’s in my best interest? Let me try to answer this to explain my upcoming vote.

In 2006, my employer decided to move all manufacturing to China and close all its retail locations leaving me – a 14 year employee – unemployed. Prospects for a job in my area of expertise were slim and none. Home entertainment electronics rode the refi bubble and now it had burst. I received a generous severance package that allowed me to return to college to train as a teacher. This is something I had wanted to do very early in life and I took my unemployment as a silver-lining kick in the pants.

Nervously, I took a look at my retirement savings – a 401k that I had split up between three funds – one very conservative bond fund, a blue chip fund (also considered conservative) and a growth fund – and all had lost half to two thirds their value. I won’t be able to do much with that if I don’t get a job right away so we might have to sell the house.

I graduated in May of 2008. Job prospects in teaching are not what they lead you to believe, especially at the end of the school year. Because of state cut backs my licensure did not come through that Spring so I applied for unemployment. Collecting took some pressure off – we didn’t have to sell the house – and I applied for every job I could get to. I started substituting to get my foot in the door, but that still meant no work during the summer and I took up subbing again in the fall. I finally got a job as a long term sub and at the end of the year I still had no job.

With one exception I have never left a job in less than 8 years and now I’m about to do it a number of times. That summer, with my application for unemployment being reconsidered (as a teacher I have summers “off” so I don’t get to collect – yeah, but I don’t have a job and have the paperwork to prove it – I got a check in November – barely enough to cover the credit card shuffle) a stimulus bill was passed and I got my job back. Full time this time, but the stimulus funds ran out so again pink slipped at the end of the year. My third pink slip.

In 2010 I got a job in my home town’s school system so the commute is easy. I’m starting my third year this Fall. We have had lots of cut backs (we will buy NO paper this year – think about that), but I am still employed. My 401k has recovered and then some.

So now I will answer the question – I’m I better off? Hell yeah! Is it all better? Hell no! We still have too many fingers in too many wars. We still have too many people looking for work. We still have much to fix here at home. Would I like it to be faster? Yes! Would I like stronger leadership with a clear vision? Yes. The Romney/Ryan ticket would put me back in the mess I’m just getting out from under now (though because I live in Massachusetts with Romneycare my family never lost health insurance… Thanks, Mitt!) I will take four more years of Obama because, even though he is not the superhero I hoped for, he has at least changed my position from a free fall of uncertainty to landing on a ledge big enough that I can see my way up and out.

So, YES, I am better off than I was four years ago. Having a job, a renewed 401k and a health plan – that’s all in my best interest – has me voting Obama in 2012.

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