Friday, December 12, 2008

Terror in Mumbai: Understanding Pakistan

Terror strikes in Mumbai

The recent Mumbai terror strikes that struck India were ghastly. Nearly 200 people, ordinary Indians, few foreigners, and many police and soldiers of India, died in different locations in Mumbai. Many Indians do not know why it happened. Indians stood flabbergasted, while the terrorists were satisfying their appetite for creating havoc and terror in the minds of Indians, which they did successfully.

It’s not that Mumbai hasn’t seen terror strikes before. But this one was different from all the previous ones. This time around, it was seen live, as it was unfolding. It was dramatic- the terrorists were acting and operating while the TV crews were filming them. It was right from the movie script – few terrorists land on Indian shores using boats, carrying loads of ammunition, spraying bullets, hurling grenades, targeting various designated spots.

Many Indians, even those who normally do not watch news, were glued to TV watching the live action for three days, terrorized and traumatized.

Role of Pakistan

Even before the dust had settled, everyone in India, and even the West, had already started to see the role of Pakistan. There was enough evidence to suggest that the terrorists originated their journey in Pakistan. They may not have the official sanction of the Pakistan state, but still, the plan may have been hatched in Pakistan. Now, India and the US are pressurizing Pakistan to act. The Prime Minister of Pakistan looks like he wants to act, but he looks so unsure. Will he act this time around? Will it be another eye wash exercise where the masterminds behind this carnage will be nabbed, put under house arrest and then released at a later date? It’s not like it didn’t happen before. Is Pakistan serious this time?

For those who ask these questions in India, the answers are actually very clear. What are those answers? For that we need to understand Pakistan.

Idolizing Terrorists

Pakistan has for many years glorified the terrorists who fight on behalf of Pakistan. In fact, this behavior originated during creation of Pakistan itself – when a group of tribes were armed and sent into India by Pakistan to force accession of Kashmir. For all these years, Pakistan has resorted to using its civilians, sometimes its soldiers dressed as civilians, to attack or infiltrate India. The same tactics were also used in Afghanistan.

The rest of the world may call them terrorists but that’s not what Pakistanis call them. They are called mujahideen, the freedom fighters. They are not the villains. They are heroes. In a country that did not produce good heroes legitimately, except in Cricket, these terrorists who killed and died to further the interest of the nation became the heroes, the idols, the stars. They are the sacrificing self-less youth who are ready to give up their lives for the service of this nation that suffered from identity crisis since its inception. What cause can be greater than sacrificing oneself for the nation? It’s called patriotism, and it is a great virtue in many nations, including India.

The way Indians revere and idolize Bhagat Singh, Azad, et al, Pakistanis hail and revere leaders like Masood Azhar, the heads of Jaish-e-Mohammed, LeT, etc. These are the men who don’t just sit around and talk or give speeches like the politicians, but they are the ones who actually act, ready to give up their lives in the process.

Will Indians ever renounce their respect for Bhagat Singh and Azad just because some foreign country asks us to criminalize them? Not really. When a nation has carefully constructed heroes to get the mileage out of them they cannot go back on that campaign to renounce them at a later date.

For many generations, Pakistanis idolized these terrorists who were waging a war against India for a very noble cause – to free Kashmiris from the clutches of evil India. While their government showed tepid enthusiasm, vacillating between supporting them and then renouncing them, these fighters, these valiant men, carried on the fight for the sake of nation, and Pakistanis will not forget those heroes.

Will Pakistan act?

Will Pakistan suddenly start acting against these terrorists just because US and India are forcing them to do so?

Pakistan has never trusted India. Pakistanis have been taught to mistrust everything that India does. Why should they trust India now? According to Pakistanis, India has backtracked itself from so many promises. Not only did it usurp Kashmir which rightfully belonged to Pakistan, it even broke off their nation to create Bangladesh. Pakistan has never trusted the West either. Why should they? First they support their military, and then they put restrictions on Pakistan, they even try to stop their much acclaimed nuclear program.

AQ Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, was revered and respected by Pakistanis the way Abdul Kalam is revered and respected by Indians. A good deal of media attention focused on him to make him a hero. So, when a ‘cooked up story’ from the West, that AQ Khan actually stole nuclear secrets from someone else, makes rounds in the international media, it falls on blind eyes and deaf ears in Pakistan. It’s like Indians reacting to an allegation that Abdul Kalam learnt his rocket secrets from the West. Would Indians ever accept it?

So, when the West coerced Pakistan to defame AQ Khan and house arrest him, Pakistanis were indignant, they rose up in anger against their own leaders who have bowed down to the pressures of the wily West that cooks up fantastic stories to defame Pakistani heroes.

Not only Pakistan but many other countries outside Western world find the West to be deceiving and lying. The West and the allies of West may forget their cooked up stories as foibles. But the non-West does not forget them. Remember the time when Colin Powell walked up to the UN and submitted photographs of evidence that Iraq had nuclear weapons to make a case to invade Iraq? That war led to killing of nearly half a million innocent people. Later, we find out that those photographs were a fake, and therefore that invasion was based on a premise that was a blatant lie, a fabrication. There were no nuclear weapons. That may appear to be a minor inconvenience to the West. The non-West looks at it as flagrant violation of everything that is decent.

So, when the West alleges that AQ Khan stole secrets, Pakistanis don’t believe it. They think it is a cooked up story to malign and denigrate their hero, and along with him the whole of Pakistan. They refuse to accept it. And yet, when their government bends down to the carry out the orders from the West, they completely lose trust in their leaders. Pakistani hates their political leaders for this and all other acts of such cowardice.

Politicians are hated by all in the subcontinent

Pakistan’s leaders have done volte face so many times that nobody has a count on it. First they supported and aided the terrorists into India, then they renounced them, then they embraced them, later they arrested them, and they let them go free, and so on. Pakistan’s leadership has done a volteface, then volteface on the volteface, and then volteface on the last volteface, so on, that they don’t even know where they stand. But people of Pakistan know where they stand. Just like Tamils of India do not forget where their allegiances lie, even after the volte face that India did on the Tamil’s struggle for freedom in Sri Lanka, Pakistani people do not change their opinion about these terrorists. They hero worship these terrorists and they are not going to let some wily politicians sway their opinion.

When Mumbai terror strikes were happening, many Indians outpoured their angst against Indian politicians. Many Indians carried placards which denounced the Indian politicians. Ordinary Indians came on TV to berate Indian politicians. Many readers wrote to newspapers to stand up against Indian politicians. So much was the anger against Indian politicians that if an observer saw the proceedings he may even believe that Indian politicians were the masterminds behind what happened in Mumbai.

Indian politicians are seen as incompetent, wily, crafty, and corrupt. Pakistanis politicians are seen, in addition to the above, as traitors, bowing down to the West, betraying their own people to please the West, and backstabbing their own people to sell out to the West. Indian leaders are at least spared the ignominy of bowing down to the West and selling out their nation. Pakistanis hate their politicians ten times stronger than Indians hate their politicians.

What to expect from Pakistan

India cannot expect anything in the short term from Pakistan. In fact, all this pressure on Pakistan to rein in the terrorists is counter-productive. The stronger the administration of Pakistan acts against these outfits coming under coercion from India and US, the stronger will people of Pakistan support their fallen heroes. Pakistan has to learn its lessons, on its own. The way Indians would not like to be taught lessons by others, Pakistanis wouldn’t like it either.

It is important for Pakistan to look at itself in the mirror, find its identity which is not based in anti-India hatred. It has to look within and correct itself. Nobody can correct it for them. Any external measure would be counter-productive.

All this talk of India making surgical strikes against terror camps in Pakistan is empty rhetoric. Everyone knows that these terrorist camps cannot be destroyed just like that. We ask Pakistan to ban an outfit. They comply. Everyone in Pakistan knows that they will regroup as some other outfit under a new name. It is as simple as that. There is no dearth of names. Destroying their dwelling does not make any difference. They will just take the sign board and move to a new office.

Unless Pakistan is serious about what they really want to do, no coercion will help. And it is time for Pakistan to save themselves from homegrown terrorists who have become Frankenstein monsters. Bomb blasts, killings, massacres, assassination of national leaders is now a common phenomenon in Pakistan. Ultimately it is Pakistan which has to pay the price for allowing the hero worship of these terrorists. They have to learn to let go the practice of hero worship of such criminals – whether the crime is against friends or foes.

Lessons from Pakistan

Instead of learning lessons from Pakistan, India is exactly following the footsteps of Pakistan. Instead of criminalizing Sadhvi and Purohit, the alleged masterminds behind bomb blasts in Malegoan and other places, Indian Hindu outfits have eulogized them. Very soon, we may see the pictures of Sadhvi and Purohit next to Bhagat Singh and Azad. They will join the pantheon of constructed national heroes who have refused to bow down to the onslaught of alien religions, and who sacrificed to uphold the great Bharat Sanskruti.

Instead of distancing itself, Indian Hindu parties have come out in the open to defend these masterminds. So do many Indian Hindus. These alleged conspirators are already seen as defenders of Hindu (Indian) faith. They are seen as the real actors when everyone around them is a mere talker. These are the real sacrificing heroes while Indian politicians, who are willing to put them in jails succumbing to Indian secularists, are the villains.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

‘Yes, We Can!’ speech

[Before you read this, you may want to read Let’s Celebrate America! and ‘I have a Dream’ speech.]

On November 4th, 2008, Barack Obama, soon to be 44th President of United States, the first ever Black man to become the President has delivered an equally emotive and inspirational speech. In a certain way, ‘I have a Dream’ speech by Martin Luther King Jr. has set the goals for America, and 45 years later, ‘Yes, We Can’ speech by Barack Obama has made it clear that America has fulfilled those goals.

Here’s complete video:

Here’s the complete text of the speech [I have taken liberty to highlight some of the text]:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him, I congratulate Governor Palin, for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the vice-president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure. To my sister Maya, my sister Auma, all my other brothers and sisters - thank you so much for all the support you have given me. I am grateful to them.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best political campaign in the history of the United States of America. My chief strategist David Axelrod, who has been a partner with me every step of the way, and to the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; it grew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for their child's college education. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.

And above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity.

Those are values that we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours: "We are not enemies, but friends… though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection."

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those who would tear the world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you.

And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "we shall overcome". Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: yes, we can.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

‘I Have A Dream’ speech

[You may want to read ‘Let’s celebrate America!’ before you read this.]

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King delivered a very emotive and inspirational speech near Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, USA, during the height of Civil Rights Movement. For those who do not know history, Black Americans were second-class citizens in many states of United States. The world then was very different the America we know now. Many states followed segregation laws, whereby Blacks were disenfranchised using various laws, they had special places to sit in a bus, and were not allowed into mainstream colleges and universities.

Here’s an excerpt from that speech:

Here’s the link to the complete speech video.

Here’s the complete text of the speech [emphasis mine]:

"I HAVE A DREAM" (1963)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends - so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a 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 the sons of former slaves and the 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 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.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi - from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring - when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


Distribution statement: Accepted as part of the Douglass Archives of American Public Address ( on May 26, 1999. Prepared by D. Oetting (

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Let’s celebrate America!

“America is the place where all things are possible!”

- Barack Hussein Obama, on becoming 44th American President.

Long ago I was asked if USA would ever see a Black President and I remember saying that I may not see it in my lifetime. And yet what seemed impossible back then has become possible now. Today, I was listening to Barack Obama speak, delivering his ‘historic speech’ in Chicago, and couldn’t help myself moved and swayed. It felt as if one of my favorite speeches ‘I have a Dream’ has actually come true.

‘I have a Dream’

It wasn’t very long ago when Blacks in America had no right to vote, when they were treated like second-class citizens in their own country, when the Whites said that the time has not come for Blacks to get the equal responsibility and freedom. And yet, within 43 years of getting the right to vote, Americans have now voted a Black man as their President.

Forty five years ago, Martin Luther King delivered a speech, in which he outlined his dream:

"I have a 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.'"

Today, we have seen America live up to that pledge. It took America 230 years to realize the full potential of what the founding fathers committed to.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Today, we saw thousands of blacks and whites cheering for Obama. The kids of Barack Obama and kids of Joe Biden walked hand in hand onto the stage. The blacks and whites felt equal in their celebrations. And America saw Obama as man of character, not his color, to elect him as their President.

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

Today, we saw the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners hugging, celebrating, and sitting together to take the responsibility of running the country.

Today I am happy, elated, and quite moved, to see America live up to achieve the impossible things they have set out do. Today, Barack Obama said, ‘Yes, we can!’

Yes you can!

Today, America should congratulate themselves for creating a great nation. They have set out do something unimaginable and they have delivered it. That is the true spirit of America. They can! When they set out to do something, they do it! And today, they have excelled and won the hearts of the whole world.

What happens in America is important to all of us, the whole humanity in fact. America is a giant experiment that humanity has set out to conduct few centuries ago. America is culmination of all lessons learnt in our history - a country that was founded on strong principles that were learnt from thousands of years of human history. And yet, they fumbled for a very long time to understand the purport of their own ideals they set out to accomplish. When they said, ‘All me are created equal’, they didn’t know what it actually meant. They didn’t want to part with that equality with Black Americans. It took nearly two centuries to understand what it means, to teach every American what it means.

America! You are a great nation today, not because you are wealthiest, or the mightiest, but because you have the ability to change, admit the mistakes of the past and learn from mistakes of the past. It’s because what you do sets an example for the rest of the world, and when you get arrogant, the world suffers.

Why I believe in America

I have spent nearly a decade of my lifetime in USA. I have learnt a great deal about myself, my nation and the world around because of my time there.

I saw an American father tell his two-year old son to go and put the trash in its right place. The kid obliged, put the trash in the can turned around and walked back to the father. During this time, his trash fell out. The father pointed it out to the son and asked him to go back and make sure it is in the right place. The kid walked back and put it in the right place. This American was not ready to accept a half-done half-baked job. He wanted his son to do complete the job just because it was the right thing to do.

In another incident, during Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky episode, I was amused that the whole country was so obsessed with sexual escapades of their president, and I said so in loud words. One of them, a manager at the place I was working, asked me to stop by at his cube. I went to see him. He opened a small book, it was the American Constitution. He then said something quite significant. He said it’s not about sex. It’s about a lie. The President lied under oath. If the President can lie so can anybody. What kind of example is that for his kids, he argued. Here is an American who expects strength of character from his leaders to make sure they set right examples.

Americans take themselves very seriously. When they commit to something they do it. And sometimes that is also a problem, because if they commit to something wrong, they do it too! A German friend once commented, ‘Almost every country used to hate Jews back then. It is just that Germans are so efficient and determined. Whatever they do, they do it meticulously. They even carried out their hatred quite efficiently’.

America of late has lost its sheen. It lost its leadership position, not because of economy or military, but because it didn’t set the right examples. It didn’t do the right thing. It became arrogant and many people started hating it.

Today, America has changed for good and that is good news for all of us. Obama talks about humility and that’s what we want to hear, and the world looks forward to a ‘new dawn of American leadership’.

Today, we have witnessed a momentous step in the history of mankind. A Black man, born to an African man, has become most powerful man on the planet. If a Black man can become that, so can anybody – that’s the message of this victory. Anybody on the planet whatever his identity can now become dream of becoming anything. It’s a strong message.

We started this journey to liberate man long ago, nearly eight hundred years ago, when the common man started to negotiate his rights. And it was a long journey from then on. Today, we see one more historic step towards emancipation of that common man.

This is not just a victory for Americans. It is a victory for the mankind. The world needs Barack Obama as US President more than America needs Barack Obama as its President. The domestic policies will nevertheless change, but it’s the international politics that the world is more interested in. Barack Obama as the President of US is a good news to world politics. It means less people killed. Hopefully we will see a benign America that does not settle its disputes with wars, pillage and murder. It means America will be less hated. More and more people will change their attitudes towards America. Hopefully we will solve the world disputes during his presidency.

This is a historic step, where Americans have come together to tell us they can change. That they can posit a black man as their leader, their front face to the rest of the world. They know they are not perfect. But they are ready to change. I told myself one day – the struggle of mankind is to make this imperfect world less imperfect. Today, we have seen a nation rise up to say that they are ready to be less imperfect.

Dream realized

Martin Luther King concluded his ‘I have a Dream’ speech saying:

"Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

At last, America is truly free.

Congratulations America! And Congratulations Barack Obama!