Exchanging e-mails with Obama
(Sen. Barack Obama, seated at center, with his junior varsity basketball team in the 1977 yearbook of the Punahou School in Honolulu.)
I was exchanging some e-mails with Sen. Obama and he was able to answer some questions that people have run by me when his name comes up. The one issue that people raise the most is that people question Sen. Obama's ability to lead all of America. I asked him the following questions.
Q. You have made an appeal to lead all of America. What were the obstacles to conveying that message?
A. One of the biggest obstacles we've faced is the cynicism many Americans have about politics. And I understand it. Year after year, politicians make promises on the campaign trail but then go back to Washington and nothing changes. Because the lobbyists write another check or partisan bickering stands in the way or politicians don’t say what they mean or mean what they say. But I'm hopeful because all across this country, I'm meeting Americans who are willing to stop settling for what the cynics tell us we must accept and reach for the kind of real change we know is possible. And that's what this campaign is all about.
The tarnished image that has become the fare of America in many parts of the world is a great concern for many people who will vote this fall. The Iraq War has changed many aspects of how we are seen in the world.
Q. What should our approach be to diplomatic relations with the world at large?
A. I'm running for president not just to end the Iraq War -- a war I opposed from the start -- but to end the mindset that got us into war. And that includes the Bush-McCain-Clinton policy of not talking with leaders we don't like. I don’t think that approach makes us look tough; I think it makes us look arrogant. I agree with President Kennedy, who once said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate." And that's the kind of diplomacy we will re-establish when I am President.
Sen. Obama feels that the time he spent as a community organizer in Chicago gave him an insight as to how to shape his tactics in the political world.
Q. How did community organizing affect your political outlook?
A. What I learned as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago is that together, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things. That's a lesson I carried with me in the Illinois state Senate, when I brought Democrats and Republicans together and passed the most sweeping lobbying reform in 25 years. It's a lesson I've carried with me on this campaign by reaching out to Americans of every race, region, and political party. And it's a lesson I'll carry with me to the White House to enact a middle-class tax cut, pass universal health care, and bring about real change in this country.
Finally, I mentioned to him that I've seen several pictures of him playing basketball. He told me that basketball was a passion for him throughout his lifetime and should he get to reside in the White House there would absolutely be a hoop on the White House grounds.