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Obama and De Tocqueville

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I believe the nation is not in peril per se, but the country is notably stagnant economically, educationally, and in a war that has been severely mismanaged. I believe a change, a new circulation, and fresh thinking is in order—and I believe Sen. Barack Obama is currently the most viable agent of change. It seems as though his often repeated platform banner of “CHANGE” seems to be exactly what most citizens are yearning for.

In pouring through and examining countless research for this paper, I noticed immediately that Obama has written and published many articles, books, and journals—in short the man is undoubtedly well-spoken, expressive, and passionate about his job. Although he is well-versed and a visionary in his own right, he likes to refer to past leaders for guidance—“Confronted by Hitler, Roosevelt said that our power would be �directed toward ultimate good as well as against immediate evil. We Americans are not destroyers; we are builders.’ It is time for a president who can build consensus here at home for an equally ambitious course.” (Obama) In this address to the Council of Foreign Affairs, Obama, instead of easily dishing out a litany of lambasting remarks concerning our current administration, he speaks more proactively of what he can do. In his arguments, much of the time, he tends to start with a general idea or value system, then he moves to the particular—“After Iraq, we may be tempted to turn inward. That would be a mistake. The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew. We must bring the war to a responsible end and then renew our leadership -- military, diplomatic, moral -- to confront new threats and capitalize on new opportunities. America cannot meet this century's challenges alone; the world cannot meet them without America.” (Obama) Here, Obama is starting with a general, but concrete belief of our foreign policy; that in order for our country to thrive, we cannot forsake other countries. He notes that renewal of attention to progress is necessary—that we must end the war “responsibly” to confront new threats to our nation and/or be aware of new opportunities. He then moves to particular national goals, which he feels he can and will accomplish—“Our rapidly growing international AIDS programs have demonstrated that increased foreign assistance can make a real difference. As part of this new funding, I will capitalize a $2 billion Global Education Fund that will bring the world together in eliminating the global education deficit, much as the 9/11 Commission proposed. We cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child everywhere is taught to build and not to destroy.” Notice that Obama closes that argument by referring back to a general principle. This is one of the great (and unfortunately rare in politics) things about Obama. He speaks so eloquently, but instead of sounding like a drone that has been fed speeches to spit out, there is weight to his words; he knows he has a stake in what he speaks about, and he works hard to get the audience to feel like they have a stake as well.

It will indeed be interesting as to who Pennsylvania feels should attain the Democratic nomination on April 22nd. The key argument, in my opinion, concerning Obama that has surfaced and resurfaced since his campaign has hit our state, has involved his connection to his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Rev. Wright’s condemnation of America after the 9/11 tragedies—“God damn America…[America’s] chickens are coming home to roost”—has brought a skeptical and questioning eye on Obama’s sense of patriotism and religion. (Ross & El-Buri) As much as conservatives want this matter to condemn Obama because they feel McCain stands a better chance against Sen. Clinton, (I know this because my mother and I listen to Rush Limbaugh), Obama is entrenched in his sense of patriotism and has roundly rejected the pastor’s 2001 comments—"I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies…[the comments were] completely inexcusable.” (

But what exactly would someone that completely understands and explicates the intrinsic value of America, such as Alexis De Tocqueville, think of Obama? Let us begin with exploring one of Tocqueville’s final thoughts regarding America in his work, Democracy in America—“The doctrine of self-interest well understood does not produce great devotion; but it suggests little sacrifices each day; by itself it cannot make a man virtuous; but it forms a multitude of citizens who are regulated, temperate, moderate, farsighted, masters of themselves; and if it

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