Monday, September 15, 2014

President Obama plants the seeds of hope

Here is one of my favorite quotes of all time from Rubem Alves.
What is hope? It is the presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks. It is the suspicion that the overwhelming brutality of fact that oppresses us and represses us is not the last word. It is the hunch that reality is more complex than the realists want us to believe, that the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual, and that, in a miraculous and unexpected way, life is preparing the creative events which will open the way to freedom and to resurrection.

But, hope must live with suffering. Suffering, without hope, produces resentment and despair. And hope, without suffering, creates illusions, naiveté, and drunkenness. So, let us plant dates, even though we who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see.
I am reminded of that quote when I realize that wherever President Obama goes around the globe, he always makes sure to address young people. It is clear that in them, he sees the seeds of hope that will outlast his time on the international stage. Here are just a few examples of what he's had to say.

Cairo, Egypt 2009
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek -- a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2011
But for our two nations, for the United States and Brazil, two nations who have struggled over many generations to perfect our own democracies, the United States and Brazil know that the future of the Arab World will be determined by its people.

No one can say for certain how this change will end, but I do know that change is not something that we should fear. When young people insist that the currents of history are on the move, the burdens of the past can be washed away. When men and women peacefully claim their human rights, our own common humanity is enhanced. Wherever the light of freedom is lit, the world becomes a brighter place.

That is the example of Brazil.
University of Cape Town, South Africa 2013
Madiba’s words give us a compass in a sea of change, firm ground amidst swirling currents. We always have the opportunity to choose our better history. We can always understand that most important decision -- the decision we make when we find our common humanity in one another. That’s always available to us, that choice.

And I've seen that spirit in the welcoming smiles of children on Gorée Island, and the children of Mombasa on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast. That spirit exists in the mother in the Sahel who wants a life of dignity for her daughters; and in the South African student who braves danger and distance just to get to school. It can be heard in the songs that rise from villages and city streets, and it can be heard in the confident voices of young people like you.

It is that spirit, that innate longing for justice and equality, for freedom and solidarity -- that’s the spirit that can light the way forward.
Jerusalem 2013
We bear all that history on our shoulders. We carry all that history in our hearts. Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you -- the young people of Israel - must now claim its future. It falls to you to write the next chapter in the great story of this great nation.

And as the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend - I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead. And as a man who’s been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience -- tikkun loam - I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world.
Brussels, Belgium 2014
And it is you, the young people of Europe, young people like Laura, who will help decide which way the currents of our history will flow. Do not think for a moment that your own freedom, your own prosperity, that your own moral imagination is bound by the limits of your community, your ethnicity, or even your country. You’re bigger than that. You can help us to choose a better history. That’s what Europe tells us. That’s what the American experience is all about.
President Obama has given that same message numerous times to young people during commencement addresses here in the United States. But he has never articulated it more powerfully than he did at his campaign headquarters the day after his re-election in 2012.

Over the last four years when people ask me "how do you put up with this or that - with the frustrations of Washington" - I just think about you. I think about what you guys are gonna do. And that's the source of my hope. That's the source of my strength and my inspiration.
People who seek positions of leadership simply to fill their own ego needs can only see the results in the "now" of their accomplishments and failures. Real leaders know that it also includes planting the seeds of hope...for the future.

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