Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yes We Can!

I am not a supporter of Barack Obama. I most definitely do not support Hillary Clinton. And am not impressed with John McCain. So, my vote this coming November is up in the air at the moment. However, having said all that I would like to give you some food for thought. As you contemplate how you will cast your ballot this fall, don't be fooled by those who say that lofty words and fancy phrases don't make a difference. Don't be fooled into believing that the ability to give an inspiring speech has little to do with being the leader of people. I would argue that one of the most important aspects of leadership is to inspire people to do more than they believe they can. It is calling people to see what they have yet to see is possible. Speeches have done this throughout time. And continue to do it today. Who can forget the words of William Wallace in Braveheart.

We should never underestimate the ability and responsibility of the President of the United States to inspire and encourage people with his presence and his words. Four years is not a long time to really effect significant change, but the ability to inspire a generation with one's words and presence can have lasting effects for years to come. It is no wonder that the greatest and most respected of our presidents have been men who could turn a phrase and give inspiring orations that have continued to inspire generations later. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan are men who used there presidential pulpit to give some of the most unforgettable words our nation has ever heard from men who have held the office. These men (like them or not) are on any honest man's short list of most inspiring and beloved Presidents. Why? One reason for sure is that they were able to inspire, not only with their presence but with their words.

Today much is being made of Barack Obama's lofty speeches and inspiring oratory. Some say its empty rhetoric. Others say it is just speeches, but no solutions. Yet, I would suggest that at the moment everyone is just giving speeches. And in the history of our nation and world, speeches have made a difference.

Again, I am not a Barack Obama supporter. He and I have serious ideological differences (as well as religious ones). However, I do believe it is refreshing to hear someone who can speak with inspiration once again. We have not had it since Ronald Reagan. It is refreshing to be able to listen to a speech and not be bored two minutes into it. I am not saying that I am going to vote for Obama. But I am saying that it would be nice to have a president once again who could give speeches like Winston Churchill. Now, if we could only have one with Churchill's convictions and leadership. I guess we can't have it all. But then again, if you listen to Obama you might begin to believe "Yes We Can."


FellowElder said...

So perhaps the question is, in a presidential race where no one really is a perfect or even "good enough" candidate drawing our loyalty, why not vote for Barack Obama?

ajcarter said...

Well, bro, I am beginning to ask that question. When this race began, I would not have even considered Obama. Perhaps I still won't. Yet, I long to see again a president who speaks with power and conviction. I long to hear a president speak and know somewhere some young boy or girl is saying, "Wow, I want to be like that." I long to hear a president talk like JFK: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." Just words. But meaning words, coming from a meaningful office. Making all the difference. It may not be enough to vote for someone, but it should be taken into serious consideration. Don't you think?

FellowElder said...

I do. Now, there will be many folks who roll their eyes in disgust at this next statement, but I think it's self evident. If Barack Obama is elected president it will be the most dramatic transitional moment since... well, it'll be the most transitional moment in my lifetime! His election will do more to upset the tired and deeply entrenched identity politics and dynamics of the country than anything I can think of. On all sides, folks may be forced to consider themselves afresh and work their way to new understandings with new assumptions. This is what I think is powerful about his candidacy; he's striking at the central nervous system of American identity. The space he's creating--at east rhetorically--for the reassessment and reappropriation of personal and collective identity is enourmous. I'd be tempted to vote for him on that basis alone.

ajcarter said...

You said it right. People will indeed roll their eyes, and you might have to turn in your American Evangelical ID Card for saying such things. Yet, your assessments are spot on. Anyone looking honestly at the landscape of America would be hard pressed to find a time in recent history that such a pivotal and dare I say epochal political event was so close to reality. Every time I listen to Obama I since the inertia of the moment. It gives me pause, even as I am anxious to see it come.
Dr. King's greatness was not so much in his preaching, but in his ability to call America to "be true to what she said on paper." Obama's candidacy is daring America to do just that. If for no other reason, perhaps you are right and that is reason enough. He may be best for this country in the long run.

wwdunc said...

I don't know, but you brothers are starting to sound like Barack Obama supporters to me.

Actually, I agree with both your assessments. What I'm struggling with right now is my personal attraction to Obama as a candidate versus my aversion towards Obama's pro-abortion position or the Democrat party's support of "gay rights". To what degree do you think a candidate's positions on abortion, homosexuality, marriage, etc should guide our voting?

What I'm finding is that the disdainful and dismissive attitudes of some of my vanilla brothers and sisters towards Obama (which come across to me, frankly, as being dismissive of Blacks) make me want to vote for him.

Added to that is the fact that I have never liked or trusted Hillary Clinton and John McCain simply doesn't interest me at all, though I have nothing against him, personally. On the other hand, I like Obama, I believe he's intelligent, capable and genuine. And, of course, we know the man can talk!

bulletbobby said...

As I am sure you agree, being inspirational should not be the deciding issue if examples of inspiration can be found in those that lead astray. I would agree that racial healing is still sorely needed in America and I place it as the second most grievous American sin after abortion. In fact, the American abortion industry is intertwined with racism statistically speaking as some African Americans are apt to point out.

I'm not trying to wound here but white evangelicals, rightly or wrongly, sometimes think that some black evangelicals are prone to putting race before other more important issues.

I am white as Tony knows, but I too, if I were black, would be prone to the same thing given the deep wounds of America's racist history. I have honestly wept at this before.

Help me here with my thinking if you would please. Is there a valid argument that the racial healing of a positive Obama Presidency could result in the diminishment of abortion? Or is abortion not quite as important as most evangelicals think it is?

ajcarter said...

As I stated previously, voting for Barack Obama has its challenges. Some of which were mentioned by Wyeth. Anyone considering casting a vote for him will have to take into consideration all of these issues.

Bobby, as you know, I am pro-life. As far as my vote is concerned, Obama is still hard-pressed to get it. Yet, I do understand the pathos behind his candidacy and would not be injured if he were to win. Pro-life candidates come every presidential cycle. Someone who really has a legitimate chance of impacting the culture and norms of America are rare creatures. I am not saying vote for Obama. But I am saying that if he wins, don't lament it. Relish the opportunity to see if America can really live up to its creed. Like or not, Obama really is the only candidate of change. And not just change for the next four or eight years, but change for generations to come. Surely, that is worth serious consideration.

Bobby, you say that abortion is the number sin of America and racism is number two. If this is the case, let me ask you a question. I assume that every year you vote for a candidate who you believe addresses the sin of abortion. Good. Have you ever been inclined to vote for a candidate who speaks to the "second most egregious" sin? Have you ever had opportunity?

If you think about this long enough, surely you will understand why some black evangelicals, who otherwise are pro-life, might take a chance on Obama because they have never had such an opportuntity before. Perhaps sincere white evangeliscals should take another look as well.

FellowElder said...

Those last two paragraphs in your last comment are money. We've never had an opportunity to vote in an election where something substantial--and obviously substantial--could be achieved re: race in America. Never. And Lord knows we need real healing in this area... and the kind of healing that doesn't first require false or coerced guilt, but draws people to nobility and higher ends.

When the thought first came to me that I might vote for Obama because of what it could mean for issues involving race and racial identity (and again, the sweet irony is that he isn't running on those issues or trying to make them the focal point), my first reaction was to shove that aside and say, "There are more important issues." As I've tried to move on, I keep getting pulled back to what you said. I've never had an opportunity to cast this kind of vote before. And I'm not so sure that the party line--there are other more important issues--holds as much water as I thought.

FellowElder said...

I should add that I'm thinking out loud here. But that, too, is precisely what excites me about this race. I've not been forced to think out loud in an election in a very long time.

bulletbobby said...

Thanks Tony for your comments and challenging reply. For symbolic reasons alone, I am rooting for Obama to win the democratic primary. Regardless of skin color, it's hard not to lament a President that supports the legalized slaughter of human life. Would you vote under any circumstance for a pro-life candidate, that supported legalized slavery?

ajcarter said...

Any circumstances? Yes. If the only other candidate was pro-abortion and pro-slavery. Thankfully, we don't have to make that decision. But we do have to make a call with Obama.

And as I stated in the first line of the post, I am not a supporter of Obama. My point is that I understand those black evangelicals (and white ones) who do.

If Obama becomes President you will have every right to lament that a pro-abortion rights candidate is once again in office. But will you not be even a little excited to know that your country finally turned a significant page in its overdue chapter on racial equality? I will. I am sure I will not show it, but I am also sure that I will feel it :).

bulletbobby said...

I'm down with all that :-) Tony I think you are a great guy. I would be truly thrilled to see an African American in the White House with all that would mean in light of our racist history all other things equal. The black man has truly been oppressed. I can only imagine the benefit in the black community in particular of the positive example of a black president for young men to follow. Hope in many ways would be restored. I have voted for Alan Keyes on more than one occasion. What's his position on Obama's candidacy?

Keith L. Tolbert said...


I agree with you in principle. However, there is a vast difference between inspiring people with speeches that have substance and speeches that just have exciting words. Obama is an expert in the latter.

It's been studied that just spouting emotion filled words like, "Change" and "Hope" have great effect even though they actually say zero. After all many of our most popular preachers inspire thousands, but say at best nothing.

Men like Alan Keyes, who have meat and substance, don't get to be media darlings because they don't tickle itching ears.

You get what you vote for!

ajcarter said...

Hey Keith, the principle is all I argued. Thus, agreeing in principle is good enough :).

bulletbobby said...

Tony. By the way, Jamie our assistant pastor is planning to move in the future to plant a Church an hour south of us Ray announced Sunday. One problem in racial healing in the Church you have pointed out is the lack of white men under black leadership. So come on down.

ajcarter said...

Tempting, very tempting Bobby. Ray knows that if I were not busy with commitments where I am, I would be down there in a heartbeat. Can't wait for another opportunity to fellowship with you all again. Definitely one of my favorite places to be. Thanks brother.

Curtis said...

At the end of the day, abortion is not a political issue. It is a moral issue. Evangelicals need to stop looking at the politicians to legislate morality and focus more on the Word of God that does. Having a Pro-life president in office has yet to change the epidemic of abortion in this country. We see this with George Bush who has had the office for eight years.

It strikes me as odd that so often white evangelicals deny or dismiss the accusation of racism, yet are eager to use it when in a discussion like this one. If believers are going to make decisions about who to vote for based on which candidate's issues are in line with scripture then we would have no one to vote for. One person mentioned Alan Keys, which is a good example of how no matter a mans beliefs or policies, color matters most. Keys was housed(for my slang challenged brothers "housed" means throughly defeated) by Obama in the race for Senator of Illinois, and I am sure that there were some white evangelicals who voted for Obama in that race.

Keys ran a spiritual campaign and was rock solid on issues of abortion and gay marriage and people dismissed him as being arrogant and called him many other nasty names.

Besides if Keys would have beaten Obama for Senator in Illinois, then turned his sights on running for president in the Republican party he would not even be considered a viable candidate by these pro-life republicans, and even by some white evangelicals who are pushing this abortion issue.

I also wonder how many women who are voting for Hilary simply because she is a woman, are being faced with the same type of adversity and strong opinions as blacks who are considering voting for Obama.
Lastly brothers such as fellowelder and ajcarter are good examples that not all blacks who are voting for or considering voting Obama are just hypnotized by his blackness and therefore are unable to think clearly.
I on the other hand am not one of these people for I am voting for him simply because he is a black man.

These Three Kings said...

Hello Mr Carter,
I am so excited I found your blog!!! I am close friends with Byron and Kim Johnson here in Montgomery..
your blog has challenged me greatly.. I cant wait to read more!!

Nicole King

ps -please tell your wife thank you again for her generous offer inviting me to stay with she and Kim for the women's retreat last month.. I hate I couldn't make it..I had to really trust God in His sovereignty over that one :)