Congratulations to President Elect Obama

On behalf of The Reader Organisation, novelist and Get Into Reading project worker, Mary Weston sends her congratulations to President Elect Obama and to the American people. 

Here’s a picture from my 1977 High School Yearbook. Yes, my claim to fame is that I went to the same school as Barack Obama in Hawaii (middle row, third from left)! Punahou was founded in 1841 by Congregational missionaries from New England – the same religious tradition that Marilynne Robinson belongs to (and also, I assume, the character John Ames, in Gilead). Many of the essays in her book The Death of Adam challenge the lazy caricature of a oppressive, joyless Calvinism. In fact it was extraordinarily liberal, promoting an ethic of service and support for the weakest members of a community. I feel I can trace that tradition in the education I received, and see it reflected in Barack Obama’s values and oratorical style.

Hawaii was an interesting place to be in the seventies. It wasn’t a paradise of racial harmony as it was sometimes portrayed, but at least every group there was a minority. The Chinese were, per capita, the wealthiest ethnic group. The Japanese had a hegemony in the dominant Democratic party (you may remember Senator Dan Inouye, who chaired the Iran-Contra investigation. Well, you will if you’re old enough!). Kanaka Maoli, the Native Hawaiian people, who had been reduced to a small minority by the same kind of cultural near-genocide that was unleashed on Native Americans, were just beginning to fight back. Nainoa Thompson, another Punahou graduate, was successfully navigating a replica of a Polynesian voyaging canoe across the Pacific, without instruments, using the stars and traditional knowledge of winds and currents. Other activists risked (and lost) their lives challenging military occupation of the islands. (I was playing slack key guitar for a University of Hawaii production of Twelfth Night, rewritten in the local pidgin dialect. No, seriously! ‘Da bugga was Excellent’).

The fusion of Hawaiian and Asian values produces a very different style of relating, much less brash and assertive than the general picture of the loud American. Individualism is tempered by the importance of the extended family, ‘ohana, which is perceived as extending forwards and backwards in time, connecting us, via our ancestors, with guardian spirits and Ke Akua, God. It is actually quite close to the way many African people see family. And the land, a’ina is seen as a living person, a chief to be served, not exploited. A leader’s dignity was measured in his humility.

Most of all, the Hawaiian value of Lokahi, achieving harmony through working righteously in conflict, shines out in Obama’s victory speech:

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours: “We are not enemies, but friends… though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”
And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.

And it was wonderful to hear this echoed by McCain, and even George W. Bush. Something wonderful has happened to America.

Mary Weston’s short novel The Junction is currently being serialised in The Reader magazine. Part one, published in issue 31 ‘Relative Time’, will be available to download from The Reader Organisation website in mid-November. Part-two will be available to read in The Reader 32 (available mid-November).

7 thoughts on “Congratulations to President Elect Obama”

  1. I loved reading this, great happiness about the election. I am off to Germany tomorrow for a week of friends and going to shows. I keep thinking of coming to England a friend is singing Boris at the coliseum and that would be fun and a reason and then I could come and visit.
    What is the short story that is running?
    David and Elizabeth

  2. What a wonderful essay! I learned so much about our new president and also about you and your family! We are so energized by what WE have done together! Barak Obama, in all his beautiful diversity, is the true face of the United States of America.

  3. Marvelous essay–beautifully written, and so full of information that most Americans don’t
    know about Hawaii, which ties is so well with the hope and excitement afoot in our
    country now! Thank you!

  4. I liked Simon Schama’s comment which was along the lines of ‘America has wiped out it’s original sin of slavery’. Well, perhaps not wiped out, but it is a move in the right direction, I think. Let’s hope that all this hype is justified.

    Wonderful piece Male Weko’ona!!!

    Aloha e Mele Kalekemaka!!

  5. Speaking of George W. Bush:

    George W. Bush is a raging racist.

    George W. Bush committed hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism (indicated in my blog).

    George W. Bush did in fact commit innumerable hate crimes.

    And I do solemnly swear by Almighty God that George W. Bush committed other hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism which I am not at liberty to mention.

    Many people know what Bush did.

    And many people will know what Bush did—even to the end of the world.

    Bush was absolute evil.

    Bush is now like a fugitive from justice.

    Bush is a psychological prisoner.

    Bush has a lot to worry about.

    Bush can technically be prosecuted for hate crimes at any time.

    In any case, Bush will go down in history in infamy.

    Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang
    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA
    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    (I can type 90 words per minute. In only 7 days, posts basically like this post of mine have come into existence—all over the Internet (hundreds of copies). One can go to Google USA right now, type “George W. Bush committed hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism,” hit “Enter,” and find more than 350 copies indicating the content of this post. All in all, there are probably more than 1,000 copies on the Internet indicating the content of this post—it has practically become headline news. One cannot be too dedicated when it comes to anti-Bush activities. As I looked back at my good computer work, I thought how fun and easy it was to do it.)

    I am not sure where I had read it before, but anyway, it goes kind of like this: “If only it were possible to ban invention that bottled up memories so they never got stale and faded.” Oh wait—off the top of my head—I think it came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

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