Self deprecation is an art reserved only for Barack Obama!
A.H. Jaffor Ullah
Trust me – I know that it takes a lot of courage to belittle oneself. America ’s newly minted president-elect, Barack Obama, who will take office on January 2009, is not afraid of self deprecation or to take a dim view of him. We saw a fine example of this barely 3 days after he got elected on November 4, 2008.
On November 7, 2008 President-Elect Obama met with the transition economic advisory board at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago . The vice president elect, Joe Biden, was also present in the meeting. After the meeting, Obama gave a press interview around 1:50 pm (central daylight time), which is the first press interview after he was elected the 44th president of America . As he addressed the meeting, all the members of his transition economic advisory were standing on the podium next to him. At one point, Obama talked about the pet dog issue, which seems to be on his mind these days.
Now, you may wonder what is so special about having pet dog in the White House when there are such pressing issues as faltering economy, Iraq War, energy deficit in America , etc.
From Obama’s talk I gather that he may have promised his two daughters having a pet if the family moves to the White House. Also, it is customary to have a pet by the residents of the White House. The Presidential Pet Museum and Pet Hall keep all kinds of information on all the past presidents and their pets. Almost all of the 43 presidents, from George Washington to George W., have had at least one pet. The leaders of the free world have shared the White House with dogs, cats, birds, horses, goat, cow, and even an alligator and silkworms (both belonging to John Quincy Adams). Martha Washington, the very first lady, only had one parrot, but her husband, George Washington, had about ten horses and 18 hounds.
In the 1960s, vice president, Lyndon Johnson, gave little Caroline Kennedy the famous pony Macaroni, which was allowed free rein on the White House grounds. Macaroni received many fan letters when her father, John F. Kennedy, was in office. The Soviet PM, Nikita Khrushchev, also gave Caroline a dog named Pushinka. Did Richard Nixon ever receive any Panda from Mao Tse-tung to keep in the White House?
The history and culture of the White House would not allow Barack Obama to move into the presidential residence without a pet. It would be almost an un-American act for Barack and Michelle Obama to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue without a pet. Therefore, it was a wise decision for Obama family to have a pet; however, what kind of pet would they have? This has become a subject of intense speculation.
To bring a closure to this hyped speculation, on November 7, 2008 the president-elect himself addressed that issue before an army of newspaper and television reporters. The following is what he said before the press:
“With respect to the dog – this is a major issue. I think it has generated more interest on our website than just about anything. We’ve two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypo-allergenic. There are number of breeds that are hypo-allergenic, on the other hand our preference would be to get a shelter dog. But obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. So, whether we are going to be able to balance those two things I think is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”
The moment I heard what Obama said in reference to the dogs prevalent in SPCA shelter, I knew that this would be discussed in comedy shows in the TV and some write-ups on this will grace the pages of many newspapers. My prediction came true. Alan Fram, an Associated Press writer, penned an interesting news story entitled “Mutts like me – Obama shows ease discussing race.” Mr. Fram wrote: “It popped out casually, a throwaway line as he talked to reporters about finding the right puppy for his young daughters. But with just three offhanded words in his first news conference as president-elect, Barack Obama reminded everyone how thoroughly different his administration — and inevitably, this country — will be.”
Three days after winning the election Barack Obama gave a hint how open and candid he would be discussing such complex issue as race. I was astonished to see how easy it was for him to self-deprecate when he said he is a mutt (read: genetically mixed).
I read earlier this year in a report that Hispanic population is rising faster and in about 50 or so years, the White Americans will become the minority. The race issue is certainly a touchy subject to many an American; however, Obama is at ease discussing race, which is as unresolved as it is uncomfortable for many to talk in public.
Barack Obama’s openness has charmed me and I am sure many people have likened his candor. I always thought that the art of self deprecation is reserved for comedians but this time I am amazed learning that Obama has mastery in this art. He has no qualms calling him a mutt.
It is often said that morning shows the day. If this is the beginning, who knows what Obama is going to say in the next four years? I don’t know about others, but I sure will listen to every word that he will say. I believe some of the thing he will say in public may shock many Americans. Three cheers to Obama for ushering in an American glasnost.
Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans , USA