Sunday, June 7, 2009

In Search of...a simple solution

It's Sunday, and if it's Sunday (come on, sing it with me), it must be politics day!

So George Stephanopoulos had an exclusive interview with our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton this morning, and those of you who know me personally know that little could make me happier than seeing a Clinton and Stephanopoulos on the same screen.

On the agenda was our relationship with the Muslim world, nuclear arms and Iran, North Korea - the sale of weapons, and the journalists on trial there, Israel's security, and being asked by President Obama, her former rival, to serve as Secretary of State in the first place. Whew! That's a mouthful, to be sure.

Let's start with the Muslim world and Obama's speech to them this week in Egypt. I just want to say, "Bravo!!" to our President. What a brave and much needed thing to do. Here's an excerpt:

"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground."

Needless to say, the Republicans hated it, and the President drew fire from everyone across the board who would rather sustain hatred, intolerance, and isolationism than sit at a table and look those we disagree with in the eye, even if it means agreeing to disagree.

I want to bring in the other topics I mentioned at the top, if for no other reason than to point out that it is impossible to please everyone or possibly anyone if you happen to be the President of the United States now. It was clear from the Secretary of State's demeanor that every effort is being made to get the two female journalists out of North Korea. It was also clear that the United States is assessing every possible contingency for who might be leading North Korea, and yet all this clarity was transmitted without laying out our specific strategies or making antagonizing statements. How refreshing!

As for accepting the job of Secretary of State, it was clear to me that Hillary would have had a much easier life had she just returned to the Senate and her life, but as she put it, when the President calls and asks you to serve your country, you'd have to have a really good reason to say, "No." And so there she was, looking tired but fully composed.

So the round table got me thinking about how impossible it is to please people. When the President appoints Republicans as in the most recent case of former Congressman Jim Leach, the right accuses him of pilfering and the left doesn't want him to be that bi-partisan. When it comes to the Supreme Court nominee, the right doesn't want someone who may rule in favor of minorities, and the left doesn't think she's liberal enough. When it comes to healthcare reform, the right thinks everything (not just healthcare) should remain privatized, for profit, and unregulated, and the left (including me) doesn't think he will go far enough to make the sweeping changes to get universal healthcare that we need (and that most other countries have).

All this has gotten me thinking - when no one seems to be pleased with what you're doing, what do you do? There is a simple solution which is easy when you're not the one getting it on all sides - do what you think and feel and believe is the right thing to do. If no one is going to be happy with you, then do what will give you a clear conscience and a good night's sleep. Do the best you can with what you have from where you are.

I would like to draw inspiration and courage from a President who seems to be doing that. I would like to think that I could do that myself, but I know how difficult it is to drown out the voices of negativity and deceit. I would like to propose that those who criticize - on both sides of the aisle - try serving others as much as they enjoy talking and taunting. I think the noise would die down considerably when constructive action replaced hot air.

On a closing note I wanted to mention the two part TV special that aired this week called Inside the Obama White House. It was a good glimpse into a world of hard working, thoughtful, intelligent, and committed people who put their country before themselves (and enjoy the occasional good hamburger). It was a chance to see a place where history and modernity live harmoniously side by side. It made me want to learn more, serve more, and be more...and that's no small accomplishment for a two hour TV special. So kudos to Brian Williams and the good people at NBC...which I hardly ever mention because George Stephanopoulos is on ABC.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, everyone. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

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