...tweeted Anupam Kher after US President Barack Obama's swearing in speech on January 20, 2013. As he wrote this, he only echoed the deep sentiments of many like me across entire India. This was only the second time as I heard Mr. Obama speak. And I was already mesmerized. Back in 2008, when he won his first term as the President of the United States, I was not even aware of his leadership skills as also his ability to speak well. The media frenzy that the US Presidential Elections generated last year, made me curious to watch the Presidential debates as well as hear Obama address American citizens. As I watched the Presidential debates, I realized why the US is a mature political system and why we are ages behind in achieving this distinction. The debate among prospective US Presidential candidates sets a remarkable standard for accountability and transparency wherein the two candidates address their voters with utmost sophistication and respect. It is interesting to note that the venue for such a debate is always a University/college, quite naturally as Universities are meant to be intellectual grounds. The two candidates argue it out on the basis of rationale and well-augmented points, willing to reply to whatever questions are posed to them by citizens. Never do they turn accusatory of each other and indulge in mud-slinging, something that has become a trademark characteristic of Indian political honchos. Another quite respectable thing about the debate is how the two candidates vying for the topmost position of American politics adhere to debate timings and respect the role of the moderator of the debate. This is also quite unlike the TV news debates that we see, in which our politicians cross all barriers of decency and only try to outwit each other rather than engage in meaningful discussions. Of course, it is naive to expect such debates in our own political system because we are yet to attain that level of political maturity. At a conference which I attended in Bhopal (2011), I recall the President of Tibet (in exile) addressing the gathering and leaving audiences in surprise when he told that during elections in Tibet, the candidates of opposition parties dine together, campaign together and even have no hesitation in sharing a hotel room. Can we imagine such a state of affairs in India? Not unless our polity becomes completely transparent!
After this, I was glued to the results of the US Presidential elections and then to Mr. Obama's speech. To say that it was enigmatic would be an understatement. It was a spark of brilliance and charm which Obama exuded during his speech. I am no expert to comment on his policies and whether his rule has benefited America or not, but Yes ... he did succeed in restoring my faith in leadership skills and abilities. As I heard him speak on November 7, 2012... I had only one wish! Could he be my President? The answer of course lies in affirmation. A leader should possess good speech skills but these are not only about using big words, jargon and stylized statements. What Obama reinforced was that a leader can be as effective if he speaks simple and is able to connect to his audiences. What Mr. Obama successfully established was that by talking his heart out to his citizens, by emotionally connecting to them, by being inclusive in his speech, he reinstated the fact that a good leader is also one who speaks well. His bonding with his own citizenry was very much evident that day. Despite being miles away in India, I had a feeling that here was a man standing in front of me and speaking to me directly. It looked as if he was speaking to each individual citizen of the American nation. He was magic. Not because he was speaking big words, but because we could connect well with his voters. I also viewed a video on youtube where Obama thanked his campaign staff and attributed his victory to their hard work and persistence. This is the stuff that leaders are made of. In his victory speech he also profusely thanked his wife Mitchell for making him who he was. He publically proclaimed love for his wife. He went on to show that leaders need not be God ... they are people next door who have family, who are emotional and who care for their citizens. A leader need not be a high-handed individual. He is the guy next door. That is what Obama is.
Another highlight of the elections was the graceful acceptance of defeat by Republican candidate Mitt Romney who congratulated Obama and pledged that no political bickering would come in the way of their working together for America. I mean this spirit is so lacking in our politicians who leave no place for sacrifice in the midst of opportunism. Can we learn???
After being overwhelmed by Obama's speech this is what I wrote on Facebook and and this exactly conveys how I feel even today.
Dear Prez Obama,
If there was one wish of mine which was to be granted today, I would have wished for a person like you to be my President.
Your victory speech and Mitt Romney's graceful acceptance of defeat in which he pledged to keep aside the politics of bickering to work for the nation, clearly reflected the maturity level to which the American political system has reached.
I especially loved your idea of that the best of America is yet to come. Also appreciated when you said that in America it doesn't matter whether you are black or white, poor or rich, Asian or Hispanic, young or old ... if you work hard, America is the place for you!
You hit the nail when you said the strength of America is not its wealth, its military but its diversity.
Felt delighted when you stressed on quality education!
The American dream seems worth it because you lead it ... I felt as if a President was directly talking to his citizens...
Salute your spirit and wish you and America four more years of success :)