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By Jill A. Bolstridge


Tuesday, January 20, 2009.


With President Barack Obama's inauguration today, it is time to looked beyond the hype of this young, attractive, charismatic, and exciting new leader and start to closely examine the issues at hand which must be aggressively addressed if we are to see the new president's "time for change" promises come to fruition.


Since Obama's election victory on 4 November, the majority of the media's focus has been, not on the work ahead, but rather, on the cosmetic excitement. It is understandable that the nation would rejoice at the accomplishment of the first black president, and that Americans would marvel at such a powerful and charismatic orator with a strong track record in the Senate, boasting a promise for drastic change at a time of nationwide despair.

Yet the hype has gone way too far.


Every major entertainment network has run a feature on the Obama family, and the Obamas have been on the covers of People, US Weekly, and Essence, while both Michelle and Barack have appeared on the cover of Ebony magazine. The Obama family is regularly featured on the television programs Hollywood Insider and Access Hollywood. Meanwhile, the President Elect himself has appeared on the covers of not only the presidential regulars, such as Time, The New Yorker, and The Weekly Standard, but shockingly, also on the covers of magazines such as Rolling Stone, Vibe, Black Enterprise, Vanity Fair, Men's Vogue, and of course, Gentleman's Quarterly.


Perhaps, however, the most shocking magazine cover featuring our future president was Tiger Beat. Yes, you heard me right, folks: Tiger Beat! 'Wait a minute,' you ask yourself, 'Isn't that the teenie-bopper magazine I used to read as a kid? The one I used to cut the pictures of my favorite Backstreet Boy out of to tape up on my wall?'


Yes, former 'N Sync fans, you heard me right! That's the one I'm talking about, and this one happened long before the election. Our President Elect appeared on the July 2007 cover of Tiger Beat, headlining next to the Jonas Brothers, with the caption: "Barack: I sing in the shower!" So alongside the Disney Channel's Zack & Cody and Miley Cyrus, the issue included a large "supercute" poster of Barack Obama sexily leaning against the Lincoln Memorial. How adorable!


And as if that's not bad enough, since the elections, QVC and The Shopping Network have bombarded us with infomercials selling Barack Obama plates and coin collections, while retail stores are selling Obama t-shirts and coffee mugs like hotcakes. But where is the real concentrated focus?

Certainly, the President Elect is not blind to the issues facing the global community. But is it possible that all this hype and superstardom could get to even a man of the highest level of integrity?


It is critical that US citizens do not allow themselves to be swept up by the hype surrounding our hottest new celebrity, and that we instead concentrate on the obstacles ahead of him and the nation. Obviously, the first issue that comes to the minds of most people is the current global economic crisis. Obama has made big promises of economic reform, with the pledge of new green research that will create thousands of jobs and the proposal of a new stimulus plan. How these items will be executed under the pressures of such a horrific financial crunch remains to be seen, and with Congress' recent moves for the Big 3 Bail Out, one must question if such funds are really being well-spent, and if and how Obama will remedy the ramifications of such a drastic action after taking office?


Clearly, the issues of healthcare and education reform are at the forefront of every US citizen's agenda list. The mess currently saturating the public school systems with the horrific effects of "No Child Left Behind" have set academic achievement at a steady decline, with students discouraged and teacher morale at an all-time low. The recent budget cuts in funding for the arts and after-school programs have left kids at their desks, filling out Scantron sheets for hours at a time, leaving school with their brains fried.


Additionally, school meal programs are suffering greatly, with unhealthy, high-fat foods barely filling kids' bellies and sending them back to class. Tens of thousands of schools are in desperate need of computers and new classroom technology, as some classrooms continue to utilize history text books which still indicate an East and West Germany.


Inner-city schools are particularly suffering. And while black children from coast to coast rejoiced at the election of "the first black president," inspired that they, too, could one day do or be anything after watching such an incredible accomplishment on TV, the sad reality is that, without the right resources in place, the cycle of inner-city school children's failures is sure to continue if major advancements are not made, and immediately. An incredible investment must be made in the education system in order to ensure the academic success of future generations.


Meanwhile, a staggering 45.7 million US citizens are still without health insurance. With the cost of a doctor's visit far too expensive for the average working-class uninsured person, emergency rooms from coast-to-coast are filled with patients with everything from stab or gunshot wounds to the common cold.


Sick people go to the ER because they know they won't be refused treatment there; yet emergency situations must take precedence, so these people sit in triage for hours simply to get a prescription for Penicillin. Then they can't afford the astronomical bill that follows the visit, putting themselves farther into debt. Inner-city communities are rampant with treatable diseases such as asthma and diabetes, but without access to a regular family doctor, let alone a nutritionist, these problems regularly go on with merely band-aid solutions just to keep people alive and breathing. In the wealthiest nation on earth, it is inexcusable that such conditions exist. So our new president has quite a battle ahead of him in the area of healthcare reform, and with insurance and pharmaceutical companies raking in the profits of such a corrupt system, it is going to be a mountainous climb.


As if the domestic issues ahead of the new President Obama were not immense enough, he faces a plethora of issues facing the world at large. And with the extensive amount of support from the international community that he garnered throughout his ground-breaking global campaigning, Obama certainly has large promises to live up to!


The rest of the world is disgusted with US imperialism and corporate greed, and even US citizens are slowly awakening to the reasons why the rest of the world hates them. Serious reform is needed in US foreign policy. US companies working, building, and hiring abroad need to be held accountable for their impacts on the ecology of the foreign lands where they work, and the ramifications of their corporate successes on the indigenous peoples of these lands.


The situation in Guantanamo must be immediately addressed, and the perpetrators of these human rights abuses brought to justice. Military dominance and aggression must come to an end, and a more balanced, objective, and sensitive approach must be put in place in regards to US involvement in foreign affairs. Just take Israel and Palestine, for example! If the US involvement in this ongoing conflict does not demonstrate our government's clear biases, then what else does?


Such drastic changes are required to undo the corruption of the past, and to secure a peaceful future across the globe. Yet how much undoing of more than two centuries of corruption can one man undo in just four (or even eight!) short years? Perhaps the expectations are too high... but then again, he did promise "change." Just how much remains to be seen.


And of course, perhaps the largest obstacle to tackle is the disastrous War in Iraq. This is probably the greatest mess facing us today. It is clear to almost everyone that it is time to withdraw, yet how? It is still relatively unknown as to why we went in in the first place, and if that's the case, how can we declare "mission accomplished" or not?


The objectives have changed so many times that no one seems to know which way is up anymore. But the bottom line is that this war has wreaked havoc all across the nation of Iraq, leaving its infrastructure destroyed and its people in a chaotic state of limbo. How to rebuild this nation remains to be seen. But it must be done with a sensitive consultation with the Iraqi people themselves. In all honesty, the closest we could come to a real solution at this point, is to offer a real and sincere apology to the Iraqi people... maybe say something like: "We're really sorry that we completely fucked up. What can we do to fix it?" But perhaps that is an overly-utopian fantasy.


So President Obama clearly has his work cut out for him. And today marks the start of what the world hopes will be a revolutionary presidency. Yet it is possible that the problems are too vast for even our hero Barack to successfully undertake. The best we can hope for is for a major dent to be put in these problems within the first two years of his presidency.


But the US people must get involved, too. It is not enough to go out to the polls and then sit back and expect him to live up to his campaign promises. One man, and even his cabinet, cannot change the world alone. It is time for us, the US citizens, to put down our copies of People and GQ and yes, even Tiger Beat, and start getting actively involved in the changes that need to be made, finding what every person can do to initiate the "change" that more than 66 million of us voted for.


Barack's victory signifies a great empowerment of the people. We must embrace this empowerment and work toward making giant strides to reform our own nation. With the right leadership in place, these changes just may be possible. President Obama, your time starts now. And so does ours.


Jill A. Bolstridge is with Rice'n' Peas Magazine, where this piece first appeared.


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