We, “the Small People,” Have a Champion in Obama

I don’t always agree with the President, but I am convinced of his commitment to the “small people” of America – and the world. And I am very encouraged by his calm display of guts in handling the BP fiasco.

When Republicans in Congress blocked an effort to raise the cap on BP’s liability from $75 million to $10 billion, President Obama stepped in and got the oil giant to set aside $20 billion to meet the claims of people whose livelihoods, lifestyles, hopes and dreams are wrecked by the Gusher in the Gulf.

BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg called these victims “the small people” – a reference for which the Swedish-born multimillionaire later apologized. I don’t think Svanberg meant to express contempt or even disregard for the working men and women of the Gulf coast when he said BP cares about the “small people,” but the phrase betrays an attitude that cannot be disguised – the perception of a world in which some people are vastly more “equal” than others.

As one of the “small people,” I am grateful that the mightiest nation on earth has a president who thinks we are, indeed, born equal and have as much right as anyone to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But instead of being lauded for his commitment to this philosophy, as well as his courage and his negotiating skill, President Obama is being criticized for his lack of theatrical finesse. The media motormouths, the  Facebook scribblers, the Twitterers and the myriad others who now comprise America’s “public opinion” gave him a failing grade for his speech from the Oval Office Tuesday night.

They wanted more drama, less detached clarity and more venting for their vicarious enjoyment. Some critics even resented the President mentioning that the BP disaster spotlights the urgent need to wean Americans away from dependence on oil.

You would think that by now the American populace would have evolved beyond the clamor for “bread and circuses” –  for circuses, anyway. But apparently not.

The mass of Americans still want actors as their leaders, empty suits giving rousing speeches and providing stirring photo ops. I bet they would elect Ronald Reagan again in a heartbeat if he rose from the dead to reprise his roles in Bedtime for Bonzo and as President of the U.S.

Come on America, grow up!  The complex challenges of today demand solutions of substance, not memorable theatrical performances.

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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