When I think about our forty-fourth President, Barack Obama, I see that dimpled gracious smile that he flashes liberally around any room he enters. Even when faced with a tedious speech that needs to be said out loud he often has these little moments when he seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself, and he has the capacity to view everyone in the room as a potential, if not actual, friend. His way of inspiring his audience is by loving it.This is a remarkable talent.
And how the news photographers are enjoying it! Just as he finishes exclaiming something that we have all been waiting to hear from him, like "The United States does not torture!" the camera spins around to the face of Senator John McCain, who was so expectantly waiting to hear this himself, in a very personal way, that you can feel his sigh of relief with his nod and smile.
That was the point in his speech which gave me the greatest relief as well, perhaps because of my own experience with tortured human beings, as well as having myself experienced violence. The entire preliminary State of the Union Address he gave to us, and to an enthusiastic--for the most part-- Congress, was stuff we needed to hear, even if we'd have rather not or if we didn't agree. He had to have mentioned "clean coal" even though he has undoubtedly been way over educated on the subject by an ever expanding crowd of environmentally aware citizens-- it was a political compromise which he consciously engages in because that is the audience in this room. At least that is the excuse I want to give to him because of his winning smile.
The other truly memorable moment to me came during his recognition of heroes in the audience. It was for Michelle Obama's young friend, Ty Sheoma Bethea, whom she hugged, while the student's letter was read by the President. Ty Sheoma is one of the Dillon, South Carolina school children who have a train rattling their class room six times a day while they are trying to learn. You could see this young woman visibly straighten and nod her head when President Obama got to the point about her and her fellow students, she and others planning to become President themselves. We will have to keep an eye on this one!
A day or two later I heard on the news that the President had presented Stevie Wonder with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress.
I can still remember listening to Stevie's music after school on KXOK radio back in the 60s when he was called "Little Stevie Wonder" and I was living in Union, Missouri. Obama was telling about how he and Michelle always agreed on one thing when they were dating, even when working out their differences, and that was on the music of Stevie Wonder, whom they both admired. (Of course I thought instantly about the guy who loved this phenomenal artist as much as I did. "There's a Ribbon in the Sky" for you.) When Obama had placed the award in Mr. Wonder's hand, whose facial expression was a personification of his name, the audience was bursting into applause, and Obama said something directly into Wonder's ear.
Probably he was saying something like, "I just can't believe I get to do this!! I've loved your music my whole life! Isn't this the greatest job in the world?" Mr. Wonder was looking totally stunned, while Obama was like a kid at a birthday party. Here is the video of the concert at the White House.
One more story of the day this week amazed me. It on the PBS News Hour (cannot find a specific link) and was about a teacher in D.C. who put up pictures on a wall in her preschool classroom of successful black men and women for the four year olds to learn about, including one at their eye level of President Barack Obama, with a mirror next to it in which they could see themselves becoming what they want to be, since they can do anything they put their minds to, just like the President says. The teacher herself was very moved by this experience as the children looked into the mirror and then said out loud what they were thinking of becoming, teachers, policemen, doctors, nurses, firemen, and so on. They also had a couple of Presidents, and one boy who burst out "I want to be an astronaut!" The teacher was a little choked up when she said, "he is really seeing himself in that mirror, not the President, but HimSelf!" Another little boy was looking in the mirror and smiling, coming up to it sideways and giggling, his dimples showing.
Maybe our confidence in the market is still a little weak, but our confidence in ourselves as a people is growing by leaps and bounds. Some of this new hope is coming from new leadership. We did this-- we elected a really nice guy to the White House!
We're going to have to keep an eye on this one. ;->