During the first few years after I came to America as a graduate student, my life was a monotonous repetition of long cold nights in my attic den, day long lab and class and daily lunchtime walk to the student centre for a 99 cent taco with a plastic glass of water. This lunchtime break was my window to the campus life and also the time to be reminiscent about the left behind life at the faraway homeland.
As I observed the student life in my campus in this new country and culture, the ethnic segregation of the students in the students’ centre cafeteria was one of the first cultural shock for me. Young white men and women are crowding around one table. Blacks have their own corner. First generation Indian sub-continental students are flocking together, so are the first generation Chinese or the second generation desis.
This picture of the American life was in sharp contrast to the description of United States of America I got from the booklets I received from the USIS. I almost memorised the salad bowl versus melting pot concept. I tried to construct a picture of my upcoming life in America when I saw all the glossy pictures of smiling black, white and Asian students chatting together on a green turf under a tree in the covers of college brochures. The reality on the ground was much different from the picture I constructed.
And almost on a daily basis, while walking in cold Michigan or seating in a lonely corner table with the taco, my mind used to revolt. An uncontrollable urge to escape from this self-exile — just simply run back to home sweet home — back to wild unbound youth; used to grip me very frequently. There used to be a dream of running barefoot to catch the un-tethered kite flying aimlessly in the open sky — with other boys of the neighbourhood — crossing rice paddy and tiny streams — through people’s backyard — climbing the imposing wall of the mosque.
Four years ago, I discovered another person who had a stunningly similar urge to revolt. The same uncontrollable desire to throw everything away and running with the tethered kite. Exactly in the same fashion, bare foot, with bunch of bare body boys, through rice paddy, across people’s backyards.
The name of the man with this dream was Barack Hussein Obama. The day Barack Obama received his acceptance letter from Harvard law school, he suddenly felt like revolting and going back to his boyhood days in Indonesia and start running, barefoot, after the un-tethered kite, across the rice paddy. [Source: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Author: Barack Obama].
Four years ago, Mr. Obama, the man with whom I share the same dream, came to us as a revolutionary. The white young men and women had finally joined hands with those black youth of the next tables, for one goal – elect Barack Obama. That was a strong statement from young America to leave behind the century old racial distrust and move forward for a change.
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Thanks to the strong participation and activism of youth America, after a landslide election victory, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the USA and the first non-white man for this job. The paths of a revolutionary and the chief executive of the capitalistic hub of the world do not always go parallel. Barack Obama could definitely have done better. The economy, which was in shambles when Obama took over, could have recovered in a faster pace. Mr. Obama could have taken a more reasonable and pragmatic stand on Arab-Israel conflict and could have taken steps to fix immigration flaws.
Mr. Obama however has steered, albeit slowly, the country back to the right direction. The squeaky wheels of the huge juggernaut called American economy started rolling again. One cannot expect such a mammoth machine to take up full speed overnight. A healthy vibrant US economy is vital for a prosperous global economy. The most important long term investments in safeguarding the future of US economy are the early measures of healthcare reform President Obama undertook through his ambitious health policy.
General Collin Powel was the Secretary of States under President George W Bush, National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan and Joint Chief of US forces under President George H W Bush during first gulf war. This decorated republican statesman, while endorsing President Obama for re-election, correctly stated that “the president get us of one war, start to get us out of a second war and did not get us into any new wars…”. Although over the last decade, war mongering has become a powerful political rhetoric in USA, despite intense provocation and pressure, President Obama did not commit USA in any more ground war.
On a Bangladeshi-American perspective, in contrast to the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s ideological policy of a smaller government, President Obama’s commitment to a strong federal government and robust federal program for the people in marginal and vulnerable socio-economic situation is a strong reason for the Bangladeshi-Americans to support re-election of President Barack Obama.
If President Obama is re-elected, Bangladeshi-Americans would expect him to oversee a full recovery of the economy, promote a humane and effective immigration policy, take pragmatic steps to resolve continued Israeli occupation of Palestine, successfully complete a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reign on corporate greed and Wall Street excesses.
During his nomination acceptance speech at the republican convention this summer, presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney mocked President Barack Obama’s effort to quell climate change. Drawing laughter from the partisan crowd, Mr. Romney, with a dismissive smirk on his face had this to say, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet.”
Bangladesh is one of the countries which is deemed to be most vulnerable to the climate change related calamities. A significant part of Bangladesh may go under water and as many as 30% of Bangladesh population is poised to be displaced due to the effects of global warming. Bangladesh needs a strong leadership from USA in combating climate change. Governor Mitt Romney may not even believe in global warming and definitely does not believe in a US leadership role in combating climate changes. From a Bangladeshi-Americans point of view, the promise Governor Romney attributed to President Obama, can very well be the sole reason to vote to re-elect President Obama.
Godspeed Barack Obama!
Rumi Ahmed is a blogger at alalodulal.org and writes from Florida, USA.