Obama the President

Barack Obama the President—
and the Political Future of Filipino Americans

Aurelio Solver Agcaoili


This is the sum of all the excitements and surprises in these last few months of the frenzied and frenetic campaign involving not only money and mind but also a new mentality and vision of presidential politics in the United States.

We have a new president—and like the way the announcement of the election of a new pope is done at the 
Vatican, the political smoke has cleared and a new beginning is there for us to behold. 

There is a new hope too.  

And a mandate given to the blessed—‘blessed’ is the meaning of his name—the leader of this land, President Barack Obama.

His name says it all: the blessings he gives to that name, blessings the electorate has given to that position of responsibility, and blessings by all those who see that grace and gratefulness continue to visit this land.  

At first, we will witness the honeymoon days, and how they serve to put a context to the inauguration of that leadership.

We can even speculate the short season of the euphoric that may be felt by those who believe in the capability of the new president, and the honeymoon days may go on an extension until things gets settled a bit in 
Washington after January next year, after the inauguration. 

In the aloneness in any office at the top anywhere else, the leader, after finally taking over, realizes that the demands of his office are an occasion of greatness that he may not squander. 

Even as we congratulate President Barack Obama, and even as we give him our blessing to use this mandate to redefine this country’s directions in the next four years, and even as we see clearly the creativity this presidency has, we have grave concerns about the wars in other countries, some of these wars being fought by Americans. 

We live in the most interesting times—and the times are difficult too—and the challenges to President Obama as the new leader of the most powerful nation on earth are enormous.

With war being fought in several places abroad in order to contain terrorism, the initiation to that presidency will both need detachment and engagement, and the 
constant to-and-fro in both in order to renew everyday some other redeeming ways of looking at the world, and at the difficulties and opportunities that are part and parcel of that world. 

A quiet peacefulness, one President Obama has, is much needed. Warriors, literal and metaphorical, and spiritual and political, need this. 

That quiet peacefulness is the ability to be alone in a crowd and to summon all the energies and inspiration that lead to a creative way of reinterpreting social realities affecting this country. 

One such social reality is the issue of immigration.

The Filipino American community everywhere awaits the development in immigration policy.

Like other immigrant communities, millions of Filipino Americans who have contributed their talents and skills in this country and who have helped this country grow need immigration policies that give prior respect for the human rights of migrants who have followed the rules, but for some other reasons, ended up as undocumented. 

The greatness of the 
United States of America is based on its welcoming spirit and its generous disposition in opening up this land for migrants. This nation—a nation of immigrants—draws much of its history of greatness from that fact.

While the president is not exactly an immigrant in the way we would define many of Filipinos who came to this country, the fact that his father is not from this land is something that could give him a better perspective on migrant and immigrant rights. 
We expect no less from our president.

Another challenge he needs to look into with speed and precision is the economic downturn that has visited this country. The downturn is not only domestic as it is international because of the globalized nature of developed economies such as the United States. 

For a while, we will reel from this national and international experience of challenges in the economic life of the people. 

For a while, there will be some sacrifices asked of us.

For a while, there will be redirections in government spending in order to spur the economy back to life as it was. 

There will be disappointments and frustrations, as the initial results of presidential pro-action will not come as a ready-made panacea to all that which is wrong in this country at present.  

We will surely be asked to give our share in prodding this country back to where it was before everything went downhill. 

And we will give what is asked of us. 

But as good and fair citizens, we will account, and account we will do. 

This is where the strength of the Filipino American community will be tested, the testing not simply a case of ‘first in something’—like a ‘first mayor’ or ‘first governor’, for instance, with that syndrome of being first more of an exhibit than a commitment.

The inspiration we catch in these joyful days is that of a leader who will work, not for some interest, but for the interest of the ordinary man and woman first. 

President Obama knows where this regular man or woman comes from in terms of the public administration of the common good. His voice—invocatory of the freedoms understood with clarity and grace by the founding fathers of this land—is one that gives recognition and allocates a space to difference. His is a moral voice, indeed, in these difficult and interesting times. 

His election blazes a trail for the Filipino Americans, as is the case for all the various peoples that have come take root in this glorious land.

Soon we can begin to dream: that one day soon, a Filipino American, or one born of the sinews of the hardy, enduring, and persevering people of the sugarcane plantations of Hawai’i or the canneries of Alaska or the hospitals of 
New York or the factories of Los Angeles or the farms of Stockton will claim this land as its president. 

The dream of the Filipino Americans begins today with President Barack Obama having successfully pursued that same dream. 

Feature story, Fil-Am Observer, Nov. 2009

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