OP-ED: Why I’m supporting Obama

Tadias OP-ED
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Publisher’s Note: We first met Zelela Menker (above) while covering an Obama rally here in New York on Feb 2, 2008. She had stopped by to take part in the “Women for Obama” rally at Columbus Circle. Zelela was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she majored in Critical Social Thought. The concentration of her academic studies has been Health Disparities and Healthcare Policy.

In the following opinion piece, Zelela Menker discusses her thoughts on Senator Obama.

False Binaries: Talk vs. Action, Style vs. Substance, Inexperience vs. Experience

By Zelela Menker

New York (Tadias) – Let us not undermine Senator Obama’s candidature and appeal by pigeonholing him as an inspirational speaker. We as voters are well aware that it will take more than a cheerleader, or a life coach to address the various social, political, and economic issues we are currently facing. Senator Obama’s advantage in this race should not be merely attributed to his choice and delivery of powerful and moving words, but more importantly the wisdom that resonates in his speeches and in his proposed policies.

One of Senator Obama’s greatest strengths has been his humility. In his acknowledgement that change is a process, that it will neither happen over night, nor will it suddenly surface “on day one” because Americans elect an African American, a Woman, or any one individual as president. The president we elect does not constitute change, but rather, at best will represent our broadest of ideals as a nation. The policy making process is highly complex, imbalanced, and there are no quick fix solutions to our problems. The success of our economy, the quality of our healthcare, and the efficacy of our education system can only improve to the extent that citizens, political parties, and interest groups are willing and able to meaningfully engage and collaborate in what has become an increasingly charged and partisan climate.

Senator Obama’s superior leadership has not only been reflected through his ability to change the minds and hearts of ordinary citizens, but also in his proven track record in government. During his twelve years of legislative experience, Barack Obama has written 890 bills and co-sponsored another 1096. It is worth mentioning that by the end of his first year in the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama had authored 152 bills, co-sponsored another 427, and successfully passed over 4 bills on highly controversial and partisan issues such as immigration, government ethics, nuclear weapons, and healthcare reform.

Unfortunately, Senator Obama’s impressive track record in politics has received little public attention, while his opponent has ironically been granted the status of political icon for a noble, yet unsuccessful, attempt at national healthcare reform. It is important to remember that Senator Clinton’s initiative for national healthcare reform failed not because the issue lacked overwhelming support from the general public, but because of the Clinton administration’s flawed strategy that it would not settle for anything less than Universal Healthcare.

This approach not only proved to be ineffective in addressing the issue at hand, but was extremely detrimental to the Democratic Party’s standing in government. The administration’s inflexibility on the issue was used by the Republican Party to portray President Clinton and Democrats at large as untrustworthy purveyors of a big and out-of-control government. Ultimately this not only hurt the administration’s image, but opened the door for more undemocratic social, political, and economic outcomes by enabling Republicans to sweep into Congress in the 1994 elections.


Above: From Right – Zelela Menker, Sara Haile-Mariam, and Tseday Alehegn.
(Columbus Circle, New York City, Sat, Feb 2, 2008. Photo by Liben Eabisa).

I support Senator Obama because he takes into account an important lesson Senator Clinton appears to have missed from her past failures in government. Change requires more than personal passion, drive, and commitment: it requires a leadership that is aware of the limits of individual power and has a solid understanding of the political realities and constraints of the current legislative process.

It is my strong belief that if we are serious about improving our healthcare system, our economy, or this country’s standing in the global community, we have to elect the candidate that not only inspires us through his words, but has time and again demonstrated he possesses the insight, judgement, and leadership skills necessary to “sign, seal, and deliver” our aspirations of a better and stronger society.

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About the Author: Zelela Menker was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She moved to the United States to attend Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in South Hadley, MA where she majored in Critical Social Thought (CST). The concentration of her academic studies has been Health Disparities and Healthcare Policy. She views herself to be the product of the boundless time, compassion, love, and dedication of her parents, her sister, Sara, her Professors in the CST department at MHC, and numerous other intelligent, sensitive, authentic souls that have crossed her path. The following words of wisdom from a dear friend have touched her life forever: “When life takes you to the edge you only have two options. You jump and land on solid ground, or you’ll learn to fly.”

By the same author: Meditations – The Dream Deferred: Re-conceptualizing Class and Politics in America (Tadias)

23 Responses to “OP-ED: Why I’m supporting Obama”


  1. 1 Calvin Leman Feb 27th, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Obama communicates with anybody who listens to him, particulary those who have no preconception of who he might be. He will help us all to help ourselves, by working together to bring democracy to this country.

  2. 2 Meklit Feb 28th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Hey,

    Great op-ed Zelela. I think you managed to put into words what a lot of Obama supporters feel but have not necessarily been able to express. It’s not empty hope that Obama inspires, it is real. It is not frequently mentionned that Obama does have 12 years of legislative experience or that he has written, sponsored and co-sponsored hundreds of bills in his time in Illinois, as well as U.S. Senate. People instead like to harp on his so-called “inexperience”, which is inaccurate as you pointed out. Thanks for this article.

  3. 3 Hanna Feb 28th, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    A very well-researched and well-written piece! Thank you Zelela.

    One of your many striking statements:

    “Senator Obama’s impressive track record in politics has received little public attention.”

    We need more articles like yours.

    And, people need to read his book “The Audacity of Hope” to see how much of an insider (white house material) Obama is with an outsider’s (as in the rest of us) point of view. (I got that impression just from the first 5 or 10 pages of an easy-to-read, pleasant and must-read book.)

    By that, I mean he is so much like the ordinary American and yet at the same time so much like the “big shots” in U.S. government. He embodies the best of both worlds. How often do we come across people like that?

  4. 4 bizu Feb 29th, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    I am going to do something very different this year as the warmer weather arrives. Normally, it’s the time to update my wardrobe and head to the salon as I get spring fever. This year I am giving it all up because I have got Obama fever!

    Girls, give up the new belt, the unnecessary trip to the hairdresser. I have a friend you just skipped her nail salon appointment, you go girl!

    Do we really need the jeans, the facial, an evening of going out or the luxury stuff we spend our money on? NO, but we all need Obama!

    Guys, do you really need the latest gadget? Thinking about taking us out on the town? We will understand this time.

    Lets wear this year’s spring fashion, the Obama button!
    Obama for president is not a luxury but a necessity we can all afford.

    What can a 25 bucks get you? A CHANGE!
    Don’t wait too long check on the website and donate!

    https://donate.barackobama.com/page/contribute/abamt25?source=mainnav

    Share what you gave up…
    Alright, I start…i gave up that purple shirt I just had in my hands, I am putting it back. That $50.00 is going to pay for some real change this year! This is an investment, not just a makeover…
    Pass it to your friends and share what you gave up….
    Bizu

  5. 5 seyoum Mar 4th, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I am gona go out on a limb and say Hilary is our best option. Lets back up and think hard for a second. Does this make sense or is it just me who think presidancy requires a little more than “on the job training.” this is not the time to take a chance on someone who have very little experiance in dealing with intricate and complex global urgency that we face today. I conced obama is a new breed of polatician. We should not dicount his message of hope and change. But I think Hillary clinton can offer that better. As much as I would like to see a black president in the office, I preffer someone who is more qualified for the job. Obama thinks being a community organizer in south side of chicago qualifies him to be a president for crying out loud. Hilary on the other hand has experiance (25 years) and if you paid attention on the debeat especial forigen policy related subjects, she is far more knowledgable it is not even funny. Thus far the libral media has been very easy on obama but in the general election you better belive the republicans will go after him with everything they got, and obama does not stand a chance debating agianst Mccain. So, to all of you Obama zelot supporters (cults) I challenge you to use your brain and not your heart. Look at what is at stake. Presidency is not a right but a previllag. Obama needs to master the inner working of poltics and complexity of world issues before seeking presidency. If your voting for obama because he gave a great speech or because he is black that is your right, obviously not a wise but still it is your prerogative. But if you examine his credential carefully you will reach same conclusion I did: Barak Hussain Obama is not ready, not now.

    I am probably the only habesha on this one

    Hilary for president 2008

  6. 6 Tina Fisseha Mar 4th, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Sir, Obama is a United States Senator. Let us not forget that Obama was also a professor of constitutional law. In addition to his experience as a community organizer in south side of Chicago, the Senator from Illinois is also a Columbia and Harvard alum who graduated as President of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. Senator Obama’s credentials can match or surpass any other American president. When it comes to judgement, which is what we need in the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, neither Hillary Clinton, nor George Bush, nor McCain can hold a candle to Senator Obama.

    President Barack Obama! Can’t wait….

  7. 7 seyoum Mar 4th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    ^^^ I agree about all the things you atribute to obama…and I belive that would make him a greate lawyer (attorney general for president Hilary’s white house) but not a president

  8. 8 Zelela Menker Mar 4th, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Seyoum,

    Thank you for sharing your feelings regarding this election.

    After reading your response I can see why you find Senator Clinton to be a more appealing candidate;there are many similarities between you and Senator Clinton in your approach to addressing issues. The first few similarities that come to mind is that you both(are): presumptuous, dogmatic, defensive, have a partial understanding of the political process, and finally, however frequent or fervent, you appear to think that you have defended persuasively your opinion or judgement by merely asserting your “thoughts”, and/or by resorting to personal attacks that have no merit.

    Let me elaborate so I won’t appear as having “gone on a limb” by making the above statements:

    (…to be continued at my earliest convenience)

    Why the wait? There is no urgency in the matter seeing that you have failed to present any valid argument(s) against Senator Obama, or in support of Senator Clinton.

    Please note your feelings expressed in your initial post have been all taken into consideration. In the future I strongly urge you to consider the following matters when trying to make an argument:

    1)”Think hard”. Obviously, clear, precise, and cogent analytical writing takes effort; indeed, in the experience of most writers, repeated efforts and sustained concentration.

    2)In general, you begin to defend your opinion by initially deploying a general, substantive, and sustainable argument (your “because” or your “reason why”) that supports your stated opinion.

    3)The persuasiveness of your opinion depends on detailed elaboration, substantiation and elucidation. Leave statements such as, “..she is far more knowledgable it is not even funny.” Since they fail to achieve any of the above mentioned and actually make you sound “funny”.

    4)Presenting multiple, seemingly independent arguements is not apt to prove more persuasive.

    5)Avoid circular arguement, that is phony or question begging arguements that only restate or specify, rather than begin to argue for, the opinion you are defending. Circular arguments also sound funny and diminish your credibility, “I conced obama is a new breed of polatician. We should not dicount his message of hope and change. But I think Hillary clinton can offer that better.”

    6)An example alone or in itself cannot argue, “Hilary on the other hand has experiance (25 years) and if you paid attention on the debeat especial forigen policy related subjects, she is far more knowledgable it is not even funny.”

    7)Trying to argue by means of mere definition, whether implicit or explicit, is not necessarily valid, “Thus far the libral media has been very easy on obama but in the general election you better belive the republicans will go after him with everything they got, and obama does not stand a chance debating agianst Mccain.” What do you mean by liberal?

    8)You have not began to argue effectively for your opinion when you rely upon citing a supposed authority. For example,”Hilary on the other hand has experiance (25 years) and if you paid attention on the debeat especial forigen policy related subjects, she is far more knowledgable it is not even funny.” Whether invoking divine law, human nature, or a prominent politician it still fails to address why YOU hold YOUR stated judgement or opinion.

    9)The development of interesting arguments most often incorporates some form of imaginative insight-apt analogy, unusual or compelling illustration, a telling contrast. There is no example for this point, which I dare say, implies it is provocative because it is rude, “So, to all of you Obama zelot supporters (cults) I challenge you to use your brain and not your heart. Look at what is at stake.” not because it is thoughtful.

    10)Unlike this laundry list of suggestions and abominations (which mimic the ignorance of your post) a persuasive opinion sparks a debate beyond the lack of a coherent argument in your post.

    Finally, I am going to go out on a limb here and say…if you think “liberal” is a dirty word maybe you have been considering the wrong candidates all along. You are entitled to your opinions, feelings, thoughts, brain, heart, and liver, but if you make a statement implying the delusional and/or mistaken state of the statistical Majority, please stick to the issues and save personal attacks with no merit for your diary.

  9. 9 Tina Fisseha Mar 4th, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Well, sir, to each, his own…

  10. 10 seyoum Mar 6th, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    zelela,

    ouch

    I may not have mastered the art of debating as you can probably tell. Most of your points are well taken except for the personal attack, I think you are better than that.

    I am just frustrated by all this craze about Obama when he has not explained how he would bring about the “change” he has been lamenting. Obama does not represent change. He is just politics as usual, saying one thing and doing another . He said he would renegotiate NAFTA, but that is not what his rep said behind close doors. Let us not forget his dealing with Tony Rezko, his fundraiser who is now charged with federal crime involving extortion and money laundering. He is back paddling from agreement he made with john McCain to public finance the general election after he realized he made more money than he thought he would. When things get though Obama skips. Obama avoids taking tough stance; he avoided voting on several important bills (too many to list). It is easy for obama to claim he was against the Iraq war when he did not vote for it. Even more disturbing, he voted to continue to fund the war. Mr Obama wants it both ways. Mr. Obama believes living in Jakarta from age 6 to 10 gives him the foreign policy credentials he needs to run for president. Try again Mr. Obama. The softer stance of the media on Obama can not be disputed. If you don’t believe me, watch last Saturday Night Live’s clip. Obama should be subjected to the same scrutiny as Hillary. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to say tough things about Obama without being accused of prejudice. Case in point, Bill Clinton called Obama’s run for the white house a fairytale. Some how fairytale was seen as a prejudiced comment. It is very difficult to argue against Barack Hussein Obama when he has very little record to argue against.

  11. 11 Selam Mar 7th, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Seyoum,

    Please not here. There are plenty of those types “out there”. Feel free to join them. And if you are from Ethiopia, you should know better than repeating the “Hussein” stuff. People here are more enlightened and way better than that.

  12. 12 Chuchu Mar 20th, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Dear Zelela:

    You should take it easy and try to help and not hurt your candidate. The beauty of a democratic system is the fact that it allows you to make free choices. A person’s support of Clinton should not cause you to react in an outrageous manner and demean his choice. I, too, will vote for Senator Hillary Clinton. She has more substance and credibility than Mr. Obama. She is a brilliant woman who is also a Yale graduate and considered one of the top 100 legal minds in the country. Have you ever watched the debates between Clinton and Obama? The disparity between the two in terms of knowledge and substance is like day and night. Besides, Obama obviously has a serious shortage of “judgment” that he kept drowning himself in. To be honest with you, his empty words and his relationships with shady people give me the chills. So, Zelela, I have every right and reason to support Hillary Clinton as you have every right to blindly support a candidate like Obama who is full of contradictions and double standards. Zelela, please don’t demean me for holding these views.

  13. 13 AA Mar 21st, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Chuchu, you could have left it at “they are both good but I choose Sen. Clinton because…” instead, you can’t resist attacking Senator Obama, an obviously intelligent and accomplished individual, with the same tired “empty words” line nor can you resist attacking his supporters, whom you say are “blindly supporting”, while they clearly have done their homework here. I like your idea of not ‘demeaning’ one’s choice just because you happen not to agree. Now if you can only do as you say… :)

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