World Travelers for Obama
I've never actively taken part in a national political campaign before. However, its obvious at this point how important the presidential election is. My first contribution is a bit of writing and the creation of a group called 'World Travelers for Obama', available on Facebook and My.BarackObama.com Here is the group description:
For those who recognize that we need a President who is informed by a "lifetime of living overseas, having family overseas, being able to see the world through the eyes of people outside our borders."
If you know that an international perspective is crucial to solving the complex problems we face in the world, please join us.
Here is the article I wrote as a first blog post on My.BarackObama.com, available here.
A few days ago, the Obama campaign released a small news item from ABCNews.com that few other mainstream or online journalists picked up. The overt message was not surprising or particularly interesting. Obama had claimed, in front of a closed door, off the record gathering of media elite at the Time Warner Building in Manhattan, that he had better foreign policy judgment than any other candidate.
However, the way he justified this statement, in a presidential race that featured a First Lady, a Vietnam Prisoner of War and a Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, was fascinating. Obama claimed he had the best foreign policy judgment because of a “lifetime of living overseas, having family overseas, being able to see the world through the eyes of people outside our borders.”
No presidential candidate in history has every taken the ‘I’m just a regular guy’ approach to foreign policy. As someone who is about to start a Master’s degree at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, an institution that trains professional diplomats, I should be skeptical of this kind of statement. But I’m not. It’s apparent to everyone at this point that the disastrous momentum caused by our current administration’s misadventures will take leadership, courage and creativity to turn around. What follows from this thinking is that we need a president who truly understands that culture and history are powerful forces that should not be an afterthought in foreign policy decisions, but primary considerations for the effectiveness of our policies, our own security, and the security of the nations we are acting with or upon.
Traveling, and more specifically, having personal relationships and friendships with people overseas, is crucial to understanding this fact. I became a student of international affairs after I had become a student of travel, learning most prominently from five trips to Africa, where I came to recognize that my friends were part of larger, richer cultures and traditions that were important to understand before we could even begin to discuss America’s role in their nation. Now, as a student of how and why nations wield power in an international setting, I keep in mind what I learned from my friends in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Cameroon and elsewhere.
In this sense, what Obama said to this closed-door gathering was remarkable. He recognized that intimate knowledge of a place and its people is the stepping-stone for decisions about our role in the world.
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