Is President Obama still a beacon of hope?


To many citizens it is mystifying why, in the current economy, so many Americans are still casting their votes for President Obama.

They cite statistics like 23 million people unemployed or under-employed, one out of six Americans in poverty (earning less than $23,000 per year), net incomes decreasing by more than $4,000 per year, and an increase in the cost of living.

For these people, this is irrefutable evidence that the current administration’s policies are not working, and we need a change.

Interestingly, such voters are taking the word “change” for themselves as a plea to get the coveted “undecideds” on their side. But what they can’t seem to take away from the president’s supporters is “hope.”

Despite all the challenges we have faced as a nation in recent years, President Obama still has the hearts and minds of many voters because he continues to represent “hope” to so many.

If you are among those who are also mystified by why this “hope” still exists, I hope — pun intended —that you will continue to read this article, because I want you to realize and understand the perspective of many of your neighbors who are planning to vote for our current president.

When I listen to strident supporters of President Obama, I see that there are essentially three reasons why polling estimates indicate that President Obama continues to have the support of nearly half of registered voters.

The first reason is ontological. That is, by virtue of simply who he is, President Obama is an inspiring and historical figure. He is a young, bright, charismatic, African-American, devoted husband and father, who came from humble beginnings, and speaks powerfully and eloquently.

His accomplishments are impressive — Ivy League graduate, U.S. Senator, Nobel Prize recipient, and President of the United States. He is a symbol of pride, and represents hope of what one can accomplish in this great country.

I have even talked with my five kids, telling them, “Look at our president. You too, can be president — if that’s what you want to be.”

What many do not get is that President Obama did not simply represent “hope” of getting out of a failing economy in 2008. He embodied, and continues to embody, a transcendent hope of what could be for many Americans, especially those in the African-American community.

The second reason the President is still supported by many is his ability to project passion and compassion to those who have been historically disenfranchised, or whom he considers the most vulnerable in our society.

While some detractors label many of the president’s policies as socialist — which by definition is the federal government assuming control of an industry — many Americans view the same policies as compassionate responses to help those who are in need.

Whether it was the GM bailout — which some view as saving an American icon — promoting education by controlling student loan rates and education initiatives like “Race to the Top,” rolling out home loan refinancing programs to support homeowners who are under-water, or simply providing resources — like “cash for clunkers” or “Obama phones” — for those who are less fortunate.

And, the president’s most significant “compassionate” program, the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), has been promoted to help every American gain access to insurance coverage despite their financial circumstances.

Instead of seeing the “compassionate” nature of these programs, in that they are seemingly intended to help the poor, the less advantaged, the “least of these,” critics generally argue how financially unsustainable or imprudent these policies and programs are, and often fail to acknowledge the need of such programs — or present an alternative proposal — or their noble intentions.

President Obama’s supporters, on the other hand, can see his passion, compassion, and good intentions. Thus, they attribute the programs’ lack of success to obstructionist congressional representatives, or fallout of the Bush Administration. They continue to hold on to the hope that the president will be vindicated in time, and the nation will see the eventual success of his policies.

Finally, some citizens continue to see President Obama as a beacon of hope because of his ability to communicate to the everyday person.

I marvel at how political pundits seem to criticize the President for doing interviews on popular radio and television shows like “The View” and “David Letterman.” Why shouldn’t he? In going on such shows, the president is conveying the message, I can identify with you. I can relate to you, and in my heart, I am one of you.

President Obama is willing to go to where the “common man” is and speak at venues which people can relate to. While he connects to us in the common culture, his example — and sometimes his words — seems to act as an indictment on his opponents who don’t seem to reach out the way he does.

I’ve seen him or Michelle Obama on some of my favorite networks like Food Network, Disney, and PBS. In appearing on such programs, they seem more accessible and relatable.

By contrast, I rarely see opponents of our president on such programs, nor do I see them delivering speeches to diverse audiences. And this contrast — whether true or not — connotes that opponents of the President are disconnected from the “common man.”

So now, the nation is at a crossroads in making the decision of who it will vote for as our next president. Four years ago, I believe that Americans cast their votes for an ideal epitomized in a man who truly embodied “hope and change.”

Today, that man has a record that has shaken the faith of many who were inspired by what could have been, or could be. We are now living through the reality of what is.

And, we face the question, will we continue to place our hope in President Obama?

Primarily for the reasons I stated above, and probably many more that I haven’t, the answer to this question, for many will be a resounding “yes!”

This begs the question, however, will those who continue to view the President as a beacon of hope be enough to re-elect him? We will not know until Nov. 6.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]