The Audacity of Hope
By: Nikki Osei
On Tuesday, November 11, 2008, The Smith Vidal Literacy on Language Workshop Center series held a forum to discuss and celebrate Barack Obama's historic victory, the significance of Obama being elected as the first African American President, what this means for the African American community, the US, and the world, among other issues. Professor Vivian Jackson, an English professor at Bowie State, facilitated the discussion, along with Professor Payne, also an English Professor, and Professor Stephanie D. Johnson, Coordinator for the English Department.
Professor Jackson initiated the discussion by posing the question, "How has Barack Obama influenced and inspired the youth?" A student responded stating, "Barack Obama winning the election gives us no more excuses for not succeeding and accomplishing our goals. Never did I believe I would see a black man as President and that encourages me to go out and make something of myself." "The biggest responsibility we have as youth is to set standards. It doesn't stop with last Tuesday, we have to continue the struggle and better ourselves".
Professor Jackson followed up asking since we have an African American as President, "Will we have a color blind society?" Many students responded, "No", and that race will continue to be prevalent and be the dividing factor in American society. Many stated that race was significant in the election and may have contributed to the landslide victory. However, based on President-elect Obama's knowledge, empathy and sincerity, the better man for the job won. One participant stated that, "If President Obama messes up, people will say that it is because he is black."
Society must accept President-elect Obama and allow him an opportunity and time to lay the foundation to make the changes he has proposed. We must also understand that he is only human, therefore may make mistakes, as numerous past President's have. In President-elect Obama's acceptance speech he stated, "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there. There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president..." President-elect Obama has realistic expectations of the obstacles ahead and gives no illusions, only hope to the American people.
Professor Jackson, Professor Johnson, and forum participants unanimously agreed that to counter predispositions about the African American culture and people, "we must step up to the responsibility and represent ourselves positively now more than ever". We must also become more knowledgeable about President-elect Obama and policies he intends to implement during his term, instead of solely focusing on him being "the first black President". The Thurgood Marshall Library has several books available written by and about our President-elect.
Another question asked was, "What can we do as the future of America to bring about a color blind society?" One student responded stating, "We should lead by example and eliminate the hate in our hearts." We should mingle with other ethnic groups and not focus on stereotypes. Professor Johnson stated that we should, "have the audacity, the boldness and nerve to think differently and manifest the idea of change. Have the audacity to put the idea into practice. We should mentor others and have self -confidence. Eliminate self hatred so the cancer (hate) doesn't spread". Professor Payne added, "Obama stayed above the fray and stuck to the issues and policies and not the nastiness. He ran a clean campaign and treated people equally and he is willing to work with his former opponent McCain."
During the forum we also discussed how the world views the United States and the fact that many countries possess hatred for the US. Many believed that the last eight years fueled more hatred for the US. However, many countries celebrated Barack Obama being elected as President because they see the potential for change and notice Obama's willingness to communicate with foreign leaders and believe that he will negotiate and compromise with them.
Whether religion should be a factor in politics was another topic addressed. The question was asked "Do you believe that Obama's faith played a role during his campaign" and "Do you think his faith gave him strength?" Most believed that Obama's faith in God not only led him to victory, but also guided him through the course of the campaign. His faith motivated him when people attacked and kept him focused on the issues instead of resorting to typical smear tactics. Our President-elect Obama is also blessed with a lovely family; an educated, classy and beautiful wife, and a participant stated that, "Michelle Obama is his backbone". The Obana family provides a wonderful example of a positive union and Professor Payne believes that we should, "Copy his game".
To conclude the forum, Professor Jackson presented an acronym using "Obama" by looking up words in the dictionary she felt represented our President-elect. Below is a shortened version.
O-original- different from what has come before
B- brilliant- intelligent
A- ambitious, adventurous, achiever, admirable
M- majestic, magnificent, Messiah
A- awesome, audacious
Countless people believe these are characteristics of our new President. We have witnessed history, with Barack Obama being elected as the first African American president, but he is more than that. He has brought forth change and inspiration to not only the American people, but also the world, which was summarizes the forums' concept of "The Audacity of Hope".