Questions for Senator Obama
Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama [IL] delivered the Commencement Address at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, May 25, filling in for Senator Ted Kennedy [D-MA], on Service to One's Country.
There are so many ways to serve and so much need at this defining moment in our history. You don’t have to be a community organizer or do something crazy like run for President. Right here at Wesleyan, many of you have already volunteered at local schools, contributed to United Way, and even started a program that brings fresh produce to needy families in the area. One hundred and sixty-four graduates of this school have joined the Peace Corps since 2001, and I’m especially proud that two of you are about to leave for my father’s homeland of Kenya to bring alternative sources of energy to impoverished areas.Blogger Jon Keller noticed the same thing we did:
I ask you to seek these opportunities when you leave here, because the future of this country – your future – depends on it. At a time when our security and moral standing depend on winning hearts and minds in the forgotten corners of this world, we need more of you to serve abroad. As President, I intend to grow the Foreign Service, double the Peace Corps over the next few years, and engage the young people of other nations in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity.
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At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again.
Now understand this - believing that change is possible is not the same as being naïve. Go into service with your eyes wide open, for change will not come easily. On the big issues that our nation faces, difficult choices await. We’ll have to face some hard truths, and some sacrifice will be required – not only from you individually, but from the nation as a whole.
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You know, Ted Kennedy often tells a story about the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps. He was there, and he asked one of the young Americans why he had chosen to volunteer. And the man replied, “Because it was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country.”
I don’t know how many of you have been asked that question, but after today, you have no excuses. I am asking you, and if I should have the honor of serving this nation as President, I will be asking again in the coming years. We may disagree on certain issues and positions, but I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good. I intend to make it a cause of my presidency, and I believe with all my heart that this generation is ready, and eager, and up to the challenge.
So I guess it's just me wondering -- how on earth do you give a speech on that topic and not mention our country's most widespread and important form of public service and sacrifice, military service?OYE Comment:
Maybe Obama didn't want to go there because of the unfortunate political contrast between himself and John McCain when it comes to military service and knowledge, an unflattering comparison that left Obama on the short end of a recent political exchange over veterans' benefits. Or maybe the senator - for reasons I can't fathom - didn't think of Wesleyan students as the type who might consider serving their country this way. Or maybe military service simply doesn't spring to mind for Obama or his handlers when they think of laudable sacrifice and contribution to the public good. And maybe that's what a justifiably war-weary electorate wants come November, a commander-in-chief who doesn't have the military on his cultural radar. Or maybe they're not quite so moved by such self-indulgent narcissism, and are shaking over Obama's speech for different reasons.
We certainly hope that Sen. Obama will address this issue, as presumptive Republican nominee Sen. McCain has, which is conspicuous in its absence. Here's what Sen. Obama says about Building a 21st Century Military on his website. But he has not yet called upon real Americans at least to consider military service, in the same way he has for other forms of service.
We've certainly heard many College and Young Republicans talk about the many ways to serve our nation, but anyone - of either party - who seeks to lead America must fulfill the obligations of our Commander in Chief.
If you know of anything Sen. Obama has said that directly addresses our topic, please click here. Thank you.
Labels: Barack Obama