Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 7 Issue 46 | November 21, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  Food for Thought
  Human Rights
  Sci Tech
  Star Diary
  Book Review

   SWM Home


Abdul Mannan

Not all moments become eternally immortal and not all persons can make history. One person did and the moment he did, it became a part of history. It was Tuesday, November 4, 2008 and the person was no less than 47-year-old Barak Hussain Obama the 44th US President elect. He will take office as the new President of US on January 20, 2009. Before him US history will have 43 Presidents on its Honour Board. Not all of them are remembered by the Americans or others around the world. However people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, F D Roosevelt and John F Kennedy have become not only immortal US Presidents but also brilliant global leaders.

John F Kennedy

George Washington, the first President of the United States proved himself a capable, even a great president, helping to shape the new government immediately after independence and leading the country skillfully through several political and economic crises, both foreign and domestic. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of US drafted the Declaration of Independence, a document that was to make him famous with its claim that 'All men are created equal' and that all have the right to 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.' Abraham Lincoln the sixteenth President saved the country from disintegration, freed the slaves and was the staunchest defender of democracy. Lincoln's belief in freedom and equality was forcefully expressed in November 1863, when he gave an address at the new national cemetery at Gettysburg. He said “we here highly resolve that…this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt the thirty-second President, sitting in his wheel chair presided over a country whose economy was on life support because of the Great Depression of the thirties. He crafted the New Deal for the millions of economically distressed Americans, acted decisively and with great vigor and the country was soon back on its feet.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy the thirty-fifth President of USA was elected to the highest office at the age of 43, the youngest in US history. His civil-rights and social-reform programme-atempts could only be successfully steered through the Congress due to his brilliant maneuvering capability. He achieved even spectacular successes in foreign affairs. His firmness in the Cuban Missiles Crisis of October 1962 leading to gradual relaxation of international tension, and in June 1963 his proposed talks with former Soviet Union which led to the limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The forty-fourth US President elect, Barack Hussain Obama is yet to prove any such feats as a President but what he has already achieved perhaps will overshadow some of the great achievements and feats of many of the past great US Presidents. He will be the first black President entering the White House, something thought to be impossible by many till the sixties when black Americans could not register to vote in most Southern States of the US even. America was a racially divided nation until President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 abolishing the State sponsored discriminatory policies against Blacks, Latinos and Asians. Even then Blacks entering the White House as a President was a far cry and seemingly an impossible dream. The only Blacks that entered the White House were perhaps the janitors. Robert Kennedy, the Attorney-General of his brother President John F Kennedy, seeing the miserable plight of the American Blacks declared in 1962 "The Irish were not wanted here. Now an Irish Catholic is President of the United States. (Kennedy was an Irish and a Catholic) There is no question about it, in the next forty years a N**** (a racially offensive term to describe people of African descent) can achieve the same position." Robert Kennedy did not live to see his prediction come true in little over forty years as he fell to the bullets of the assassins in 1968 while campaigning to secure the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. It is believed that he fell to the bullets of the assassins as he was advocating the equality of the American Blacks.

The history of American Blacks is one of the darkest chapters in the history of civilisation. No other ethnic community was subjected to such an atrocious inhuman treatment in the hands of fellow human beings for such a long time (for about four hundred years) as the American Blacks. When Barack Obama was declared elected on the late night of November 4, the joy and exuberance shown by the people around the world seemed as if Obama has been elected the President of the world and not only United States. From generals to pastors from bakers to butlers people wept in joy. It was a dream come true for millions of people around the world, especially for people who loved human dignity and human rights, people who respected liberty and fraternity. It was a dream come true for people who believed that people should be recognised not because of colour of their skin, religious belief or ethnic origin but because of achievement and contribution to mankind. It was a dream come true for people like the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who on August 29, 1963 standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC addressing a gathering of few hundred thousand Civil Rights activists declared "Five score years ago, a great American (Abraham Lincoln) in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation (Abolition of Slavery). This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of African slaves who had been seated in the flames of withering injustices. It came as joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity…even though we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day, even in the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice." Martin Luther King also did not live to see his dream come true as he too fell to the bullet of the assassin on April 4, 1968.

When Barack Obama enters the White House as the 44th President of the United States and the first African American to do so in its 232 years of history he will be walking tall along with millions of Americans and peace, democracy and justice loving people around the world. The expectations will be high, public scrutiny will be closer. Kennedys and Kings will be watching from heaven so will be the forefathers of millions of African Americans who lived through the darkest patches of American history. Only the future will testify how a new icon of contemporary history will manage to do justice to the demand of history.

Professor Abdul Mannan is a former Vice-chancellor of Chittagong University. Currently he teaches at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008