Barack Obama’s Political Experience

Once upon a time there was a young man who settled in Illinois as a professional lawyer. He served several terms in the Illinois state legislature, then was elected to the national legislature for a term before becoming a candidate for the presidency of the U.S. People initially ignored his candidacy, citing his lack of experience when compared with his opponents. You think I’m talking about Barack Obama; I’m talking about Abraham Lincoln, the greatest yet of the 43 men to serve as U.S. President.

I’m not sure there are too many who are not grateful that “conventional wisdom” was repudiated in 1860 when a self-taught “country lawyer” was elected President. It was possibly the most important election in the history of the U.S. I believe there was divine guidance to make sure the right man was in the White House at that time to lead the nation through its bloody identity crisis.

Once again, we are faced with a crucial time in our nation’s history (the word “crucial” originates from the Latin crux, meaning cross, implying we are at a crossroads and the decisions made may change the direction of the future, or they may keep us on the same road we are travelling). The pundits and pontificators will tell you Obama doesn’t have the experience needed for the job, as Dick Cheney said, “Given the nature of the times we live in.” I don’t have a problem with that analysis; I just have a problem with the basis of that analysis. It assumes that Washington experience or executive experience (i.e., a governorship) will make the candidate a better President. Although that may be generally true, Lincoln proved that it is not infallible. Besides, I think that most of us regard prolonged Washington experience as corrupting and dirty.

Moreover, where has the “experience” of prior Presidents gotten us? Most recently we elected a former governor who has deceived us into a poorly executed war to which there is no palatable end. Some of the worst Presidents had the most “experience” and some of the best were outsiders. We must focus on what kind of person we want in the Presidency, not what kind of résumé he/she has.

Another “weakness” that people identify in Obama is that he is too deliberative. If I have to choose between a President who takes extra time to think and question his own assessment and one who makes knee-jerk decisions and “stays the course,” I’ll take the former. I don’t see any problem with a man of thoughtfulness and reflection being the nation’s executive.

Although I don’t agree with everything Obama says, I think he is the right man for the job at this time. He is willing to ask the hard questions, admit to the correctness of the other side of the argument, and risk failure by making unpopular decisions. He doesn’t see compromise as a four-letter word and is willing to work with anyone to get done what needs to be done. He has a fresh 21st century vision and perspective, knowing that yesterday’s solutions won’t fix tomorrow’s problems. He’s the right man and now is the right time.


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