Does Barack Obama Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

9 10 2009

I was really excited to hear who the Norwegian Nobel Committee would choose today to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Would it be Three Cups of Tea author and Afghanistan and Pakistan builder of schools for girls Greg Mortenson (see my post on Greg here)? Or Dr. Denis Mukwege, the Congolese gynecologist who has repaired the damage done to 21,000 gang raped women and given them hope? Both were incredibly deserving and could certainly put the $1.4 million prize money to good use helping women and girls.

President Obama at UN Security Council Mtg (Doug Mills, NY Times)

President Obama at UN Security Council Meeting in September 2009 (Doug Mills, NY Times)

I was as stunned as anyone to learn upon waking today that President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The committee received 205 nominations and created a short list of between 5 and 20 nominees. A group of academics who are permanent advisers to the Nobel Institute examined these candidates, gave their input, and the committee made the final decision. They had this to say about why they awarded President Obama the prize:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had this to say about President Obama’s win:

We are entering an era of renewed multilateralism, a new era where the challenges facing humankind demand global common cause and uncommon global effort. President Obama embodies the new spirit of dialogue and engagement on the world’s biggest problems: climate change, nuclear disarmament and a wide range of peace and security challenges.

There are many naysayers, though…mostly in the U.S….who ask what has he done to deserve this prestigious prize? After all, he’s only been president for 9 months. Go back even to the over two-year election period and you can see him already at work as a peacemaker. Some examples?

  • John McCain called him “that one” in an election debate and Obama turned the other cheek and did not react. He has been very gracious toward McCain and included him in many high-value decisions since he’s been president.
  • Hillary Clinton was snide and mocked Obama repeatedly during the election and Obama never responded in kind toward her. After her vitriol (and Bill’s) toward him, he had the grace to ask her to be his secretary of state.
  • Throughout all the Bill Ayers, Reverend Wright, and Acorn debaucles and Palin hate mongering rallies, Obama said repeatedly that he trusted the American people to see what was really important and not to get sidetracked or misled.

Not once did he let all of the ugliness directed at him cause him to act ugly in return. Many people saw him as weak and thought he surely would not win the election because he didn’t go on the attack, but the American people decided they wanted someone who was peaceful, positive, and projected a quiet calm.

Besides how he conducted himself during the campaign, President Obama, in just a few short months has already done a lot to promote peace. A few of his efforts include:

  • A commitment to nuclear disarmament even in the face of North Korea’s threats and launching missiles
  • Meeting with President Dmitri Medvedev to begin repairing relations with Russia
  • Meeting with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan to improve relations between their countries
  • Giving a major speech aimed at the Muslim world in Cairo where he spoke of a fresh start and a new relationship based on mutual respect and understanding
  • Working to restart peace talks by meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine

Obama responding to Nobel Peace Prize win - Stephen Crowley - NYTimesPresident Obama’s spoke this morning about this honor; here are some of his remarks:

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I’ve said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won’t all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it’s recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award — and the call to action that comes with it — does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

President Obama will go to Oslo, Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10. He has announced that he will donate the prize money to charity.

Kenyan Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said:

Many people are waiting for miracles, when miracles have already happened. The getting of the senator into the Senate, the way he conducted his campaign, the way he won… In America it may not look as big a thing as it was to the rest of the world, the hope and the aspiration it provides for the rest of the world.

Think back to election night and inauguration day. Barack Obama…even before he became president…lifted not only the American people, but people all over the world. He gave them hope, he made them believe again in decency, respectfulness, dignity, honor, honesty, openness, civility, inclusiveness, and the power of trusting and communicating with people all over the world. To me, these are the hallmarks of what creating peace is all about.

Alfred Nobel stated in his will that he wanted the Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to…

the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

Does Barack Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? For me…and the committee upholding Alfred Nobel’s wishes…the answer is YES, he does. I cannot think of a single other person who is more the active embodiment of what Alfred Nobel sought in a peacemaker worthy of this award. Congratulations, President Obama and thank you for your example and your peaceful tone as a man and as our president.

Here’s Geir Lundestad, Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, speaking to senior editor Simon Frantz about why President Obama was chosen for this high honor.

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Using the Lost 2016 Olympics Bid to Sow Hatred in America

3 10 2009

Ha ha ha! We didn’t get the bid for the 2016 Olympics. What a loser that President Obama is. That’s what we’re hearing from many conservatives today. Here are some actual statements made today with derisive gleefulness:

  • Rush Limbaugh – “Our president, Barack Hussein Obama, has been running around the world for nine months telling everybody how much our country sucks…. Why would anybody award the Olympics to such a crappy place?…Obama demeaned the office of the presidency, going on this sales pitch….He doesn’t understand how delighted the world is to make him look foolish in order to take a swipe at our country. We’ve got a two-year-old manchild with a Mars-sized ego, which today crashed and burned.”
  • The Drudge Report – “THE EGO HAS LANDED. WORLD REJECTS OBAMA: CHICAGO OUT IN FIRST ROUND”
  • The National Review Online – “Wow, what an embarrassment for Obama. If he can’t work his personal magic with the Olympians, why does he expect it to work with the Iranians?”
  • Michelle Malkin – “Goodbye, ‘Yes We Can.’ Hello, ‘No, You Can’t.’ Like Icarus, President Obama’s giddy ego flight has ended with melted wax and fallen wings.”

This is downright disturbing to see Americans gloating because the U.S. lost the bid for the 2016 Olympics and laughing out loud at President Obama because of it. Lately there have been a lot of outrageous, mean-spirited, derogatory, and frankly anti-American statements made that indicate the speakers of those words hope our country and President Obama fail; Limbaugh even outright said so.

If you are one of the people laughing at our president and hoping our country fails, do you call yourself religious? Do you claim moral authority? Are you a member of the party whose election campaign motto was “Country First”?  If so, I ask where is your decency, your Christ-like spirit, and your caring for and loving fellow Americans including BLACK ones like our president? When you ask the question What would Jesus do? do you seriously think he would behave this way?

Instead of gleeful derision, why not celebrate with Rio de Janeiro on their win today? Why not be grateful for a president who made a huge personal effort and sees this as an opportunity to reestablish relations with people all over the world after they were so damaged by the previous president? Why not be thankful to all the people who spent countless hours putting together the bid for Chicago to host the Olympics? Wouldn’t all that be more Christian, more decent, more American?

I’m really tired of certain factions…incited and egged on by certain media personalities…doing everything they can to tear down our country. Consider the source of your information….it is from opportunists who don’t care about our country and the people in it. These opportunists make a lot of money being outrageous and hateful. They worship the almighty dollar.

Instead of what we saw today, I’d like to see glee being shown when people extend kindness, lift each other up, care for one another, and contribute to the good in the world. 13th century Persian poet Rumi says it so well:

Tender words we spoke to one another are sealed in the secret vaults of heaven. One day like rain, they will fall to earth and grow green all over the world.

What words are you saying? Are they kind? Encouraging? Caring? Loving? Will they fall to the earth and grow green all over the world or scorch the earth with dissension and hatred?

UPDATE 10/5/09: Paul Krugman has an excellent New York Times Op-Ed on this entitled “The Politics of Spite,” which was published 10/4.





Empowering Women to Hold Up Half the Sky

28 08 2009

Her family in need of money, at age 14, Abbas Be left her home in Hyderabad, India and went to New Delhi to become a maid…or so she thought. Instead, she was locked up in a brothel, beaten, gang raped, made to service customers sexually, made to watch girls who didn’t comply be murdered, and was never paid for her work. Eventually she was rescued by police and taken back to Hyderabad, where she found a home in a shelter that helps trafficked girls heal and learn skills for a new life. Abbas is getting an education, has learned bookbinding, is counseling girls on how to avoid being trafficked, and is earning enough money to help her sisters get an education and help them avoid being trafficked.

How can we improve the plight of women and girls globally? One very important way is through education, as is demonstrated in this story and many others in the upcoming book Half the Sky BookHalf the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which will be released on 9/8/09. The book is written by the husband and wife team of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and journalist and author Sheryl WuDunn, who have both won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting. They wrote an essay called “The Women’s Crusade,” which is adapted from the book and appeared on 8/17/09 in the New York Times. Here are some of the things they report:

  • In 1990, while living and reporting in China, they read an obscure report that stated that 39,000 baby girls die in the first year of life annually in China because parents don’t get girls the same medical care they do boys.
  • A bride is burned once every two hours in India because the dowry isn’t high enough or the husband wants to get rid of her to marry someone else.
  • Anywhere from 60 to 107 million females are missing from the planet due primarily to not getting adequate nutrition and health care. This number is more than all the men who were killed in all the wars in the 20th century.
  • The poorest families in the world spend approximately 20% of their incomes on alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks, and lavish feasts and only about 2% of their income on educating their children. Studies show that when women are able to have an income, it is more often spent on good food, medicine, and housing and children are healthier.
  • In some cases, fathers drink away $5 a week at bars…$5 that could purchase a mosquito net and save a child from dying of malaria.

Sometimes even the simplest things can make a huge difference in the lives of girls. Examples mentioned in the article are:

  • A study done in Kenya by Harvard economist Michael Kremer showed that the best way to motivate sixth grade girls to better academic performance is to offer them a $19 scholarship for seventh and eighth grade and recognition at an assembly.
  • In another Kenyan study, it was shown that dropout and pregnancy rates can be significantly reduced by providing a $6 school uniform to girls every 18 months.
  • Another way to keep girls from missing classes is to aid girls in menstruation by providing pads and a place to change them.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

President Obama has appointed a new White House Council on Women and Girls. Nicholas and Sheryl have three concrete recommendations for the Council, which would cost no more than the U.S. has given to Pakistan since 9/11:

  • Set aside $10 billion over the next five years to educate girls all over the world.  When Larry Summers was chief economist of the World Bank, he said that “Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world.”
  • Sponsor a drive to help countries all over the world iodize salt and eliminate iodine deficiency. Approximately a third of households in developing countries don’t get enough iodine and it can affect particularly female fetuses and reduce girls’ IQs 10 to 15 points.
  • Provide $1.6 billion over the next 12 years to eradicate obstetric fistulas. A fistula is a hole formed inside a woman during a difficult childbirth and it can leave her smelly, incontinent, and shunned by her village. It only costs a few hundred dollars to repair.

There is a Chinese saying that inspired the title of the Kristof/WuDunn book:

Women hold up half the sky.

Sometimes women just need a little help. If you’d like to make a difference in the lives of women and children all over the world, here are just a few of the many organizations that would appreciate even a small donation:





Hatred in Action at the Holocaust Museum

10 06 2009

Tragic. Today an 88-year-old white supremacist walked into the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and killed a 39-year-old security guard before being fired on by other guards. The Holocaust Museumkiller was known to hate Jews, Catholics, and African-Americans and on the radar of those who study fringe extremists who devote their lives to hatred. He wrote a book denying the Holocaust and praising Hitler. He spent more than five years in prison for the 1983 conviction on charges of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board with a hunting knife, revolver, and 12-gauge shotgun. He even invoked others to kill people who threatened what he saw as the supremacy of white people.

These kind of people terrify me more than any Taliban or jihadist. These are people living on our own soil who at any moment in any location and without provocation can take someone’s life…or many lives. These people walk amongst us. They look like us. They may be our grandfather, our son, our uncle, our boss. We usually don’t have a clue as to the level of depravity and hatred they harbor. Their souls are dark places where light never enters.

And yet people like Palin, Limbaugh, Cheney, O’Reilly, Beck, and Hannity fuel the flames that burn in these in-grown terroists’ hearts. These very public people tell lies and make insinuations that inflame the ignorant, the uninformed, the uncurious, and the gun-toting racists. They speak with seemingly innocent irresponsibility and then act surprised and are in denial when their words produce predictable results.

I am disgusted with the talk of these people and the talk of any person who promotes hatred. I am alarmed and saddened by the results of their hate talk.

Credit: MSNBC.com

Stephen Tyrone Johns Credit: MSNBC.com

Stephen Tyrone Johns was the man killed. He had worked as a security guard at the Holocaust Museum for six years. He was doing his job to protect the school children and others who come to the museum to remember the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. He didn’t deserve to die.

The other news today? Carrie Prejean, Miss California, was fired by Donald Trump. She is the contestant in the Miss USA pageant who spoke out against gay marriage and preached intolerance toward gay people. Is it any accident that these two incidents headline the news in the same day? I think not. They, along with the killing last week of the abortion doctor by a right-wing extremist, speak of intolerance, of people claiming their way is the only right way, of excluding others who are not like you.

We need healing, love, and inclusion. These are what President Obama is practicing and teaching. Why are these positive principles so threatening to those who hate? We must hold the light and shine that light into the dark corners of the extremist corners of the dark hearts in our society. Our country, its citizens, and the citizens of the world need our light.

Here’s “This Little Light of Mine” sung by the African Children’s Choir. I heard them sing in Austin a few months ago. These children shine light and love into our hearts with their singing, dancing, and ebullient spirits. We can learn a lot from children…they remind us to be about joy and love.





LGBT (Gay) in America…LGBT in Iraq

13 04 2009

gays-holding-hands1As gay marriage, gays in the military, gay teachers, gay friends, etc. become mainstream, we must not forget that LGBT people still suffer. A gay couple was thrown out of the beautiful Four Seasons hotel downtown in Austin (a very gay-friendly town) recently because one guy sat on the other’s lap in the lobby. Students are still harrassed in school.

To bring attention to this, the Day of Silence is being celebrated throughout the U.S. on Friday, April 17. According to the website:

Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Students who participate in this stay silent the entire day to bring attention to the silence faced by LGBT students in the face of name calling, bullying, etc. According to the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), 61% of students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

If you’d like to encourage Congress to support the National Day of Silence, go to this Gay Rights page on the Change.org website and sign the petition.  The resolution was introduced to the House of Representatives on April 2nd.

The White House and President Obama support several LGBT initiatives, which can be found by going to this whitehouse.gov civil rights page. On June 1, 2007, candidate Barack Obama said the following:

While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.

We are making great strides in treating LGBT people with respect, but there are still hate crimes and murders here. And while our government is struggling with how to treat LGBT equally, police here are at least not hunting down LGBT people as they are in Iraq.

Is there anyone to help me before it is too late? That’s the urgent plea in a handwritten note released last weekend from a member of the Iraqi-LGBT who is being held for execution because he is gay. In an April 7, 2009 article, the New York Times reports:

In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word “pervert” in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies, the police said.

The police have been working to “clean up the streets” of beggars and homosexuals lately. A gay subculture has sprung up with the increased freedom in Iraq, but homosexuality is still against the law. The Times speaks of the fatwa that was issued against homosexuals in Iraq:

In 2005, the country’s most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a religious decree that said gay men and lesbians should be “punished, in fact, killed.” He added, “The people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.” The language has since been removed from his Web site.

Below is a disturbing report from CNN about gays being targeted in Iraq. One young man interviewed says he would rather commit suicide rather than admit to his family that he is gay. So when you walk down the street and think of the freedom that you have to love who you want and hug your partner, remember that if you were lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered, it could put you in danger in an American school or get you killed in Iraq.

 





Honey, I Have a Headache – Not in Afghanistan You Don’t

4 04 2009

You can’t say no if your husband wants sex and you’re a Shiite Muslim woman in Afghanistan. You are required by a new law to have sex with him whenever he asks unless you are ill. Convenient for the men…and critics are outraged at the worsening of women’s human rights in Afghanistan. Estimates put the number of Shiite (or Shi’a) Muslims there who are affected by the new law at 10 – 25% of the population.

The new law signed by Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai restricts a Shiite woman’s rights even further:

  • She cannot leave the house without her husband’s permission and it can be only for a “legitimate purpose.”
  • She cannot seek work or hold a job without her husband’s permission.
  • She cannot get an education without her husband’s permission.
  • She cannot make a doctor’s appointment without her husband’s permission.
  • She cannot be granted child custody in the case of divorce; custody goes only to fathers and grandfathers .
  • She cannot inherit houses or land from her husband, but he can inherit them from her.

An United Nations press release was issued about this on 4/2/09 and begins by stating this:

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday urged the Afghan Government to rescind a new law, reportedly signed by President Karzai earlier this month, saying it would seriously undermine women’s rights in Afghanistan and contravene the Afghanistan constitution as well as universal human rights standards.

The press release quotes Ms. Pillay as saying that:

This is another clear indication that the human rights situation in Afghanistan is getting worse not better. Respect for women’s rights – and human rights in general – is of paramount importance to Afghanistan’s future security and development. This law is a huge step in the wrong direction.

I got a small taste of these lack of freedoms for women when I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1979 and 1980. I could not drive a car. A man had to accompany me anywhere I went. I had to have my arms and legs covered when I went to the main souq (marketplace) downtown (with a man, of course). I wasn’t allowed to work except to teach in the American school. I could not even go to Jeddah to join my husband until he had established himself as a legitimate person working in that country. I was left behind in the U.S. pregnant for several months and had the baby without him by my side as a result.

But my restricted freedoms were nothing like what the Afghan Shi’a women are now being faced with. The new law legalizes a husband raping his wife. He has total control over what she does and when. If you are a woman, ask yourself how you would like to have no choice on whether you have sex or not with your husband. How would you like to be told that you cannot get an education or a job or leave the house or even go to the doctor without your husband’s approval?

The freedoms we enjoy in the United States as women are immense compared to those that are slipping away from or nonexistent to women in other parts of the world. We don’t have pay parity with men. We don’t have many women in executive positions. We have never had a woman president. But we can choose to say no to our husbands when we don’t feel like having sex.

Let us remember our sisters all over the world and join Commissioner Pillay and President Obama in denouncing this new Afghan law that makes a woman less than a person.





International Free the Slaves Awareness Day

26 03 2009

Did you know that there are 27 million slaves worldwide today? Shocking, isn’t it? March 27 is International Free the Slaves Awareness Day. Free the Slaves is a not for profit organization that “… liberates slaves around the world, helps them rebuild their lives and researches real world solutions to eradicate slavery forever.” They have a 25-year plan to eradicate slavery. Here are facts they list about slavery:

slavery-facts-from-free-the-slaves2

Think slavery doesn’t exist in the U.S.? Think again. Slaves are harbored in 90 U.S. cities. An estimated 50% of the over 14,500 – 17,500 slaves trafficked into the U.S. each year are sex slaves; the other 50% are in the agriculture, domestic service, manufacturing, and other industries.

The largest numbers of slaves – as many as 18 million – are in Pakistan, Nepal, and India. The Free the Slaves website has an interactive map you can click on to find out about slavery in any part of the world.

President Obama calls human slavery a “top priority.” In a March 24, 2009 White House press release, “President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Luis C. de Baca as Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department.” If you want to help, Free the Slaves has a whole page of suggestions.

You can read other posts I have written about slavery/trafficking:

The average citizen in the U.S. can possibly save a person being held in slavery by being alert to things that don’t seem right and being inquisitive. A slave may even be a teenager living with their family and being coerced into sexual slavery as is the case in the post mentioned above.

Watch this excellent video from Free the Slaves with personal stories of people enslaved under false pretenses. The resiliency and spirit of people who have been through this horror is amazing. Join Free the Slaves and the many other excellent organizations such as isanctuary.org and FreeGirl Foundation that work to stamp out human slavery and trafficking. We all bear responsibility for our brothers and sisters all over the world.





Life as an Iraqi Refugee

24 02 2009

Imagine what life would be like as an Iraqi refugee. I did some research on what refugees are experiencing. Here is a realistic story you could hear from one of them.

I am one of 5.5 million Iraqi refugees. I watched as my husband was killed by a suicide bomber in a revenge killing. A Sunni insurgent leader forced me and my children from our home at gunpoint.

Iraqi woman and child in refugee camp

Iraqi woman and child in refugee camp

We fled on foot to the holy Iraq Shiite city of Najaf and live in a camp with 200 other people. It is one of many camps in Iraq. 1.2 to 1.5 million of us fled to Syria and hundreds of thousands to Jordan after our homes were destroyed, our lives were threatened, and our family members were killed. One in five Iraqis are refugees…ONE in FIVE.

The water we drink is polluted. I fear being attacked if I go outside our tent and so my children and I urinate and defecate inside…in the place where we eat and sleep and live. Every time I venture out to collect firewood or to get some of the polluted water, I risk being raped.

My children had to drop out of school and there is no school in our camp. Sometimes we get meager rations of food to eat. Other times, I must prostitute myself to get money to buy bread and water for my children and me. Every day I pray that God will send us food and clean water. I pray that my children and I will not fall ill to cholera or typhoid, which is rampant in many of the camps.

I also pray that the United States will rescue us from this living hell. I have always heard that the United States was a very powerful and rich country and that they help people in other countries. They helped create the violence in my country by attacking us. Now they need to help those of us who were forced from our homes due to their aggression.

President Obama has pledged to create an international working group to address the crisis that we refugees face. He has pledged $2 billion in aid to expand services and help provide a decent place to live to refugees in Iraq and in neighboring countries. Every day is a struggle to stay alive physically and emotionally. Please hurry. We are dying.

Those who fled to Syria hope that President Obama will appoint an ambassador to Syria to help with their situation. They are not allowed to work and many of them are forced to allow their young daughters to dance in clubs and even serve as prostitutes to make money to feed their families.

I am barely holding on to hope and to the physical and emotional well being of myself and my children. I fear they will not develop properly because of lack of food and pure drinking water. I wonder if I will ever be able to have my own home again, hold a job, and find a man who would take me as his wife. I want a normal life. I want out of this camp. I am a refugee in my own country. I cry to God and ask for help for my family and my fellow Iraqis from someone…anyone. Please help us.

This post is written to recognize and give voice to those 5.5 million Iraqi refugees who want and need to be heard. Refugees International wants you to be aware of this situation and sign a petition to urge President Obama to take swift action to help Iraqi refugees. Here is a short clip from their website about Iraqi refugees in Syria:





Finally…Moral Leadership and NO MORE TORTURE

22 01 2009

Finally. An ethical President. When we hear “The U.S. does not torture,” this time it will not be a lie. Today President Obama (I love the sound of that!) issued an executive order that orders that any prisoner being held at Guantanamo must be be treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions (which Bush totally ignored). He also ordered the closing of Guantanamo no later than one year from today. Some prisoners have been held there as long as 7 years without a trial.

Obama with Retired Generals Signing Order on 1/22/09 to Close Guantanamo

Obama with Retired Generals Signing Order on 1/22/09 to Close Guantanamo

 One of the retired generals accompanying President Obama as he signed the orders was Retired Major General Paul D. Eaton. He was interviewed by Keith Olbermann and Eaton had this to say about today: “It’s been a blockbuster day. The performance of our President was nothing less than terrific…great courage. It was a wonderful, wonderful session with him.” He also said that he and other retired generals and admirals  have been working with Human Rights First on how to restore our moral standing in the world. He said a critical component of that is how you handle your detainees.

Eaton also said that the Bush Administration “…allowed Guantanamo to become a recruiting poster for Al Qaeda.” This statement is similar to one made by “Matthew Alexander” (an assumed name) who is a former U.S. interrogator. I wrote about him in this post and his assertion that as many Americans have died because of the U.S. practice of torture as died in 9/11.

Obama also signed today an executive order to establish an interagency task force on detainee disposition to “… identify lawful options for the disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations.”

A third executive order President Obama signed was “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.” He revoked previous regulations issued to or by the CIA from 9/11/01 to 1/20/09, which gave them power to ignore the Geneva Conventions and other U.S. laws regarding treatment of prisoners and torture. The executive order asserted that detainees are not to be tortured and are to be interrogated using the Army Field Manual guidelines.

Yesterday President Obama ordered that military prosecutors halt all Guantanamo war crimes tribunals for 120 days so that the cases can be reviewed. The military had been serving as judge and jury in these cases.

I have written several blogs about torture after hearing New Yorker writer Jane Mayer speak in Austin and then reading her riveting book “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.” I had a recent conversation with my mother about how Bush and Cheney had personally authorized torture and she seemed to be totally unaware this was going on. I’m sure there are millions of other Americans who have been blissfully unaware. They are most likely the same people who voted for Bush for president again in 2004…the same year the photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib came out.

President Obama is a different man. He is caring, compassionate, has a strong moral compass, and believes there are other ways to deal with our enemies rather than torture them to partial or complete death or to bomb them and go to war on false pretenses.

Finally the U.S. can begin to assume our position as the leader in human rights and equal rights for all people. It’s about time.





A Brand New Day – The Inauguration of Barack Obama

20 01 2009

Instead of a rah-rah campaign speech, Barack Obama’s inaugural address was one of a leader during difficult times…sobering, direct, forceful, confident, and often parental.

obama-taking-oath-of-office

Instead of trying to make us feel good, he spoke to us honestly about the challenges ahead and of how we must all do our part. The massive crowd seemed a bit stunned. They were in a party mood and wanted to cheer during his speech. They had a few opportunities…but mostly listened somberly to his call to each of them…to each of us. If you didn’t see or hear the speech…or just want to watch it again, here it is.

The interviews with people who came to the inauguration were heart-warming and tear-producing. They each had a personal story to tell of why they had to come to the inauguration, no matter the hardships in getting there or the discomfort of standing in 15 degree cold for hours.

Barack and Michelle…now the President and First Lady…and Vice President and Mrs. Biden showed courage (another trait of leaders) in walking several blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue on a day when many feared for their safety.

Obama was gracious in thanking Bush for his service, but appropriately did not gush and did not mention Cheney. The sight of Cheney bowed in a wheelchair…the formerly all powerful vice president…now not able to walk on his own two feet seemed apropos. The sight of Bush leaving in a government helicopter while the crowd booed and sang “Na Na Na Na, Goodbye” also seemed apropos. The two war criminals were diminished and dismissed by a people eager to get on with forgetting the destruction they left behind.

Senator Kennedy, even with brain cancer, looked fit and delighted as he took his seat in the viewing stand at the swearing in…and later suffered a seizure at lunch. He, like so many of us, was so moved by Obama that he put his own (health) issues to the side and showed up, which is what Obama is asking us all to do.

Malia and Sasha were poised and charming and their mother Michelle was beautiful, elegant, lovely, graceful, and supportive. Barack was intimate with his wife and children and made the day as much about them as it was about him.

The planning of the day was superlative…except that more wiggle room could have been built into the schedule. It was a beautiful day, a memorable day, a joyful day, and a day to remember.

Celebrities such as Beyonce (beautifully and tearfully singing “At Last” as the Obamas danced their first dance), Alicia Keys, Oprah and Steadman, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Will.I.Am (he of the incredible video that contributed so much to the campaign), Mary J. Blige, Faith Hill, Usher, and so many more were thrilled to participate in the day and at the balls. Aretha Franklin sang “My Country Tis of Thee” masterfully during the swearing in ceremony.

Barack Obama brought change today…to our country, our minds, and our hearts. I leave you with Will.I.Am singing a song so appropriate for the day…”It’s a New Day”…a day an African American became the most powerful person in the world and moved into the WHITE House…built on the backs of black slaves.





From KKK crosses to a black president

4 11 2008

As a white child growing up in east Tennessee in the 1950s and 1960s I remember seeing huge KKK crosses burning. I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing, but I did feel shame as a white person. My grandfather had a farm and hired several black men as farmworkers. He always referred to them as “niggers” and that term felt uncomfortable to me then. It was a way of talking about people that was demeaning…that meant they were less than in his eyes.

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11/4/08 WE CHOOSE A NEW AMERICA

3 11 2008

11/4/08 we choose a new America. McCain and Palin did everything they could in this election to divide the country, create hate, inflame racism, lie, cheat, hide, deny, smear, and more. ENOUGH. 11/4/08 WE CHOOSE A NEW AMERICA.

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Rachel Maddow and Barack Obama

30 10 2008

I watched Dr. (and Rhodes Scholar) Rachel Maddow interview Harvard Law Review President Barack Obama tonight on her show. This was two highly intelligent, engaging, and informed intellectuals going head to head. There has been (by the McCain campaign) so much emphasis put on Obama being someone who can give a good speech and draw crowds. It’s easy to forget that Obama is also a tremendous scholar. CLICK HERE to keep reading





Barack Obama – Calm, Steady, Presidential

12 10 2008

The world is in the midst of an enormous financial crisis. 401ks, life savings, jobs, banks, and businesses are vanishing before our eyes. Barack Obama is the calm, steady hand we need to lead our country out of a near-depression, a 10-billion-dollar-a-month war in Iraq, and a 10+ trillion dollar national deficit.

Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic and columnist for the UK’s Sunday Times has written a brilliant article for today’s Times about Obama’s calm and how he does not panic.

I am in awe of Obama. His challengers try and provoke him and he does not take the bait. McCain runs negative ads against him and Obama says he trusts the American people…that they are smart enough to see through all that. McCain calls him “THAT ONE” in the debate and Obama just smiles and lets it roll off his back. Obama just does not get ruffled.

His opponents try and paint him as too cool or elite. It’s been so long since we’ve had a calm, intelligent, and thoughtful president that the Republicans make that sound scary.

Republicans, the fear-mongering and swift boating just won’t work against Obama. He’s just too smart for you. He’s assembled a brilliant team of people who are just as steady and calm as he is. They are in it to win and they will win.

23 days. Calm. Steady. Stay the course. Focus on the issues. Let McCain and Palin flail in desperation. I can’t wait to have an intelligent, methodical, mature, and honest president. President Obama. Just who our country needs.