[Viewpoint]Agent of change
As I watch events unfold in the United States, I begin to think U.S. President-elect Barack Obama was born to be a historic figure. The Great Depression of the 1930s made us remember Franklin Roosevelt, and now, a grand stage has been created for Obama to carve his name in history. He can make a mark beyond his status as the nation’s first African?American president. It is a tough situation, but history only remembers big events, and Obama is being watched carefully.
I have no desire to worship Obama. I am not sure if he is always right. He claims Korea exports hundreds of thousands of cars to the United States, but America only sells 4,000 or 5,000 cars to Korea. When I think about his argument, I want to ask him, “European and Japanese cars sell well in Korea. Is this the result of fair trade?”
But after following his campaign, I think it was fortunate that Obama was elected as president. Above all, I am very glad that he is not a politician who has built his career based on anger and the feeling of being victimized. If he were, his distorted views would influence U.S. society and the world.
After he confirmed his victory on the night of Nov. 4, Obama stood in front of his supporters and said, “Hello, Chicago!” Obama started his speech with a bright smile on his face, and I was nervous. So many past hardships probably passed across his mind at the time.
At the age of 9, Obama saw a photo of an elderly black man who had failed to whiten his skin using chemicals. After seeing the picture, he stood naked in front of a mirror and cried because he thought all the adults around him had gone mad.
From the age of 6, Obama lived with his mother and stepfather in Indonesia for four years. There he saw the reality of a rich general who owns 24 cars living next door to kids whose bellies were distended from hunger.
And yet, his speech showed no trace of anger toward U.S. society.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he said, and he only talked about the country’s future.
Rather than sinking into self-destructive anger, Obama built his capabilities at Columbia University and Harvard Law School and learned about life in the slums of Chicago. Twenty-three years after his arrival in Chicago and 12 years after his first election to public office, Obama has now achieved the post that will most allow him to realize his beliefs.
Those who have doubts about Obama exist on both ends of the spectrum, including both supporters and the opposition. Those who see the presidential office in terms of the civil rights movement call Obama an “Oreo.” They say because Obama became an adult after the civil rights movement was finished and he is not a descendant of slaves, he is a black American only on the surface.
Their argument, however, falls short of explaining why the 24-year-old Obama left a multinational consulting company in New York and went to the slums of Chicago.
Some conservatives said Obama only emphasizes unity now, but he will eventually divide the nation by running the government with policies that favor African?Americans. Their argument, however, also fails to make clear why Obama, while studying at Harvard with other talented people, was chosen as the first African?American editor of the Harvard Law Review, where both liberals and conservatives coexist.
That is why I have such high expectations for him. I believe U.S. society will make a step toward unity if Obama continues to live his life the way he has until now. After his victory, a poll found that 42 percent of African?Americans think U.S. society is fair and noble, up from 18 percent earlier. I see this as the beginning of change in black America.
*The writer is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jung-wook