Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The White House blog

I know, I know: everyday the same story: we open the paper, we turn the TV on, we check our inbox, we turn the radio on: everybody everywhere is talking about Obama. I wonder when this craze's gonna be over :P 
Since the most news I've read lately are about Obama and his presidency or his popularity, his decisions, his tasks, his speeches...well, I don`t have much else left to talk about.

As I mentioned in my previous post I consider myself as one of Obama's fans, but there was one little thing that was upsetting me about his decisions. He expressed the importance of taking care of the Middle East situation, he pronounced himself on relationships he would have with China, Russia and Europe, he said he would try to do something for Darfur and other African countries...but what about Latin America? Some people say his relationships with Cuba will improve, he did take action on Guantanamo...but what else? What about Mexico, Argentina, Brazil? This morning, when I got the paper, I had a nice surprise: Obama called Lula and said he would like to come and "pay a visit" to our country, or invite Lula to DC, in order to better discuss economic issues such as the openingof economic "barriers" in the American continent. So, we haven't been forgotten...

As I wrote before, I am a fan of Obama, and mostly for one reason: his attemts to address the people in a straightforward way, without relying too much media information (which, as we know, is not always "trustable"). I just found out he convinced members of the Government to keep the population updated on what was going on in the White House through a White House Blog, which is open to anyone who wants to read it. Of course, it's not Obama himself who writes it, but it is already something...

Another interesting thing is that, even though Obama had time and will to update the White House blog, he wouldn't be able to. As the president of the United States, he shouldn't be able to go online so much, he should renounce to his e-mail account and he was asked also to give up his inseparable Black Berry. But Obama didn`t surrender to that one: he fought for keeping his Black Berry and a personal e-mail account. Of course, all of this need to be approved by the Security Department, so they did let him keep a Black Berry (for the first time in History), but it needs to be a special one. According to the NYTimes, he got his new phone already, but he's not using it yet...

Finally, the last piece of news I read about the new president has to do with his readings. Apparently, he's always been the book worm kind of reader. Having spent most of his childhood in Indonesia, he learnt about American way of life and it History through books that his smother would encourage him to read. He's learnt a lot about life in general, American History, American identity, American Politics and World Politics thanks to the books he's always been keen on reading.

Some of his favorite authors are also mine, because they deal with "what it means to be a “divided child,” caught on the margins of different cultures, dislocated and rootless perhaps, but free to invent a new self" (quoted from Michicko Kakutani's article), like Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing and Elizabeth Alexander. Identity, American Identity and the American country that gives people the possibility to build new selves is definitely something that appeals to the new US President. And this makes me admire him even more.

What really stroke me about Obama's readings is the difference from Mr Bush. According to Kakutani, Mr. Bush is also an avid reader, but he seems to face this more as a competition rather than something that can have a bigger impact on him. When he does follow what writers say, it's because they preach the Manicheist way to see things (black or white, good or bad, friends or enemies) that permeated his Politics. Obama seems also to be different from his "Brazilian colleague", Lula. Lula, in fact, doesn't make any effort in promoting reading, culture, knowledge and education among his people. Much on the contrary, he affirms that "reading the news makes him have a stomachache".

We definitely have something to learn from President Obama...don't we?  

Friday, January 23, 2009

Barack Obama Inauguration Speech (Part 1 of 2) Obama Inaugural Speech

As millions of people all around the world, I, too, was watching as Obama pronounced his Oath, his Adress and walked down Penn Ave. to get to his new residence: the White House. It has been said many times by many people how touching and moving it was to see him become President at all effects...and for me it was not different. I was glued to Cnn.live in my laptop and Cnn on TV.

I liked his Adress: it was beautiful. I believe Obama has an impressive power with words and discourse. I've learnt, though, he is not the only author of his dicourses. It seems Jon Favreau, 27, one of Obama's biggest fans, helped the President write some of the famous speeches of the campaign. You can find out more on this by entering the Guardian webpage. Apparently young Jon Favreau, who was the Valedictorian for his class at Holy Cross College, meets with Obama to get the President's guidelines for the speech and then, counting on a team that does reaserch for him, gathers information to finally sit down with his lap top and a black cofee in one of DC Starbucks and do the writing. When it gets late, he writes from a simple and empty student apartment near DC and he stays up until late at night to write under the influence of many black coffees and red bulls. I'd say this is kinda common practice among workers in DC :P

I will copy here just some of the best parts (in my opinion) of the 44th President's speech. I consider these as the best parts because they deal with some values and beliefs of the American culture that really strucked me and that I've learned to understand and admire.

You can read the whole thing on the White House website. There you can also watch the video at a higher quality.

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you've bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.


We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken -- you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. (Applause.)

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. (Applause.) 

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. (Applause.)

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.


Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall; and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. (Applause.)

Friday, January 16, 2009


This new year didn't start so well. First of all, this economic break down of which everybody keeps talking about. An then the war in Gaza. Apparently, after Hamas sent a few rockets into some cities in Israel, the Israeli Government decided that was it and it started invading Gaza.
The war so far has been dreadful, devastating and terribly unfair for the Palestinians. Israeli, being a much more developed and richer country than Gaza, has a considerable technological advantage. Palestinians have been killed like flies or ants: hundreds at a time. The number of Palestinian casualties is now over 1000. All of this is just terrible.
It is also terrible and sad to think that this ware has been going on for 60 year, with occasional breaks. It is frustrating to think that nobody so far has been able to drive the countries to peace and to dissipate this hatred that there is among Israeli and Palestinians. Probably the situation is much more complicated than I could ever be able to understand or, even less, address in this post. Still, I do believe I have something to say.
Yesterday I went out to mail a package. The post office closer to my house in the one on Avenida Afonso Pena, one of the most important avenues in Belo Horizonte. I happen to live in the same avenue. When I was almost at the post office, I saw there were people handing in flyers and on a truck I could see Palestinians wearing their kefiahs. It didn't take me long to understand people were manifesting against the war and the way Palestinians have been decimated in these past weeks. The first feeling I had was solidariety. I was glad to see that here in belo Horizonte people were doing something for the Palestinians. 
Soon after the truck passed by, my eyes fell on the people that were walking together and holding big posters. The first posters were expressing solidariety with Palestinian people, but behind them, a lot of posters were expressing hate against the state of Israel. 
Suddenly, I was shocked and disgusted by the manifestation. It didn`t make any sense to me. It was completely incoherent. How can you preach solidariety to one side and hate against the other? If you really want things to be better, how can you be racist yourself? This is a war that should just not be happening!! It's not a football match, you don't take sides in a war like this! You can express solidariety againt the ones that have been damaged more...but wasn't it the Hamas who started with the rockets first? So, can we really say someone's right or someone's wrong? Isn't the purpose of a solidariety manifestation to preach peace?
So, even here in Belo Horizonte, thousands miles away from Israel, we get things all wrong...and we are not even directly involved!! What can we expect from those who are experiencing the war, then?