Obama’s Demeanor Reminds Me of a Favorite Poem

obamaWhen I was about 12 years old, my father taught me a poem by Rudyard Kipling. He said it had helped him face the challenges in his life and he hoped it would help me weather the storms that would be sure to come in mine. Today, as I watch the crazed antics of John McCain and listen to the misguided or deliberately deceptive observations of media commentators, I wonder if Barack Obama’s father had taught him that poem. The Illinois senator’s calm demeanor and unflagging perseverance reflect Kipling’s message so well. The poem is titled “If,” and it goes something like this:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

But make allowance for their doubting too,

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise,

If you can dream and not make dreams your master,

If you can think and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same,

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools,

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss,

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 

Or walk with kings nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,   

If all men count with you, but none too much,

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And -which is more -you’ll be a Man, my son!

*

Rock on, Barack! My dad would admire you if he were alive today. You’re Kipling’s kind of man.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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