An Open Letter to the President

14 Aug

Dear President Obama,

Photo Credit: Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project

Three days of UK Riots, Bashar’s bloodbath on the streets of Syria, famine and violence in Somalia, inflation in China, global stock market uncertainty, high domestic unemployment, an increasingly probable double-dip recession and public distrust and disappointment with government officials dominate the world headlines. The world we live in is a layered and complicated place in which suffering and tragedy are daily events that we’ve learned to ignore in favor of concentration on the simple, the understandable and the easy.

I’m 22 years old and entering my last year of college, I will graduate with a Master’s degree in Public Communication and a Bachelor’s in English in 2012 because I enrolled in an accelerated degree program. I also plan to attend law school after graduation and I am currently in the process of studying for the LSAT. But for the past month and a half I’ve had difficulty concentrating. On October 1, I will take the most important test of my life and allow four hours to determine the trajectory of my career. For a test as important and difficult as the LSAT, I should be able to concentrate and care –but I’m having trouble doing so.

I believe my problems focusing on LSAT-preparation stem from my growing skepticism that a law degree will guarantee me any job-certainty or even employment. While I’ve wanted to be an attorney since my early childhood, the closer I get to my goal, the less certain I am that I’ve made the right choices. With education should come confidence. But young people growing up in this economic and social climate have very little of either, education or confidence.

2008 was the first presidential election I was old enough to vote in; I was hopeful and idealistic as young voters often are. For all of my idealism and hope, I feel you have not actually enacted any changes in the status quo that I can be proud of. I voted for you because I thought it would bring about changes in policy and the political climate. But I know that many of the other young voters, who came out for you in record numbers, voted for you because of what you stood for and because we believed that you understood that deep structural changes were necessary in the way that our government functioned.

You became the President at a very uncertain and unlucky time in American history. You inherited a great deal of failed policies, a deficit, two wars, a recession and a political system where change is based on backroom deals and not constituent voices.  I can now see that the kind of veering change that I expected was naïve. But the factor that most elicited my support of you, your eloquence and honesty, is a glimmer of what it was in 2008. While seven seasons of The West Wing have taught me that the idealism of the campaign must turn into pragmatism and realism in the actual presidency, I do not believe that that shift should manifest itself in the inability to stand up for what you believe in.

One of the most compelling statements you made in your campaign was when you said U.S. foreign policy should extend an open hand to the Middle East instead of a closed fist.  I know that the rhetoric of your campaign indicated that you would be a collaborative, pragmatic and compromising leader. While I know numerous Op-eds and pundits have already belabored this point, but I do want to state that compromise doesn’t mean capitulation. All leaders must have two hands, one open hand to compromise, but one closed fist to stand firm.

This brings me to the point of my introductory paragraph: the world is complicated. Each and every one of us has far less control over events than we can find comforting. I do not expect you to create miracles out of destitute situations across the globe and at home. But if you make the case for the things I thought you stood for in 2008, even if you don’t accomplish them, at least these issues will have a voice. There is structural inequality and systemic poverty in the world, I know you can’t solve it, but you are standing behind the largest, most powerful podium in the world. When you say something, it matters; which is why I hope that you will choose to say what matters in the future.

I know with 2012 around the corner, you must say what people want to hear rather than what they should hear, in order to get reelected, but I’m just not sure what the point of reelection is if we’re reelecting more of the same, especially when we all believed in change.

I will be voting for you in the 2012 election; but this time, not out of excitement and promise, but out of fear and uncertainty. Maybe that change in me is just a part of growing older. The small but resilient part of me that still hopes you will reemerge as a strong leader to re-inspire the nation wishes you the best of luck.

Thank you,

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