Whether he was a great President or not only time will tell.
Former US President Barack Obama’s autobiography, A Promised Land is seven hundred and forty one pages long. I am halfway through it. He belongs to the rare breed of untarnished political leaders. His place in history is assured. He is the only black American to become President of the United States of America.
Whether he was a great President or not only time will tell. That he is a great and remarkable man is not in doubt. Within two years of being a US Senator, he became known throughout the country. His refined character, his wide reading, oratory made members of Congress, the rapacious multinationals and the media sit up. Here was the coming man. A unique phenomenon was unfolding. People seriously started talking about him as a possible President. He himself gained confidence and said to himself, “Yes we can”.
He consulted hundreds of people, in many walks of life, but mainly politicos. One of his close friends suggested to Obama that he “talk to Kennedy. He knows all the players. He ran himself. He’ll give you some perspective. And at the very least he’ll tell you if he plans to support anyone else.”
Barack Obama met Kennedy in the latter’s office, “I hear there is talk of you running for president”. Obama told him it was unlikely but he wanted to but he wanted Kennedy’s “counsel”. Here’s what the younger brother of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy said to Barak Husain Obama.
“I won’t be wading in early”, Teddy said. “Too many friends. But I can tell you this, Barack. The power to inspire is rare. Moments like this are rare. You think you may be ready, that you’ll do it at a more convenient time. But you don’t choose the time. The time chooses you. Either you seize what may turn out to be your only chance you have, or you are willing to live with the knowledge that the chance has passed you by.”
On Mahatma Gandhi, the author writes at some length: “More than anything, though my fascination with India had to do with Mahatma Gandhi. Along with Lincoln King (Martin Luther) and Mandela, Gandhi had profoundly influenced my thinking. As a young man, I’d studied his writings and found him give voice to some of my deepest instincts. His notion of Satyagraha or devotion to truth and the power of nonviolent resistance to stir the conscience, his insistence on our common humanity and the essential oneness of all religions; and his belief in every society’s obligation, through its political, economic and social arrangements, to recognize the equal worth and dignity of all people—each of these ideas resonated with me. Gandhi’s actions had stirred me even more than his words: he’d put his beliefs to test by risking his life…” Gandhi according to Obama had “set off a moral charge that pulsed around the globe”.
About Manmohan Singh he writes, “…I would find Manmohan Singh to be wise, thoughtful and scrupulously honest. Despite its genuine economic progress, though, India remained a chaotic and impoverished place: largely divided by religion and caste, captive to the whims of corrupt local officials and power brokers, hamstrung by a parochial bureaucracy that was resisting change.”
Mr President, this is unfair. India is a secular country, its civil services are among the best in the world. India’s democracy is a functioning one and India has not produced a Mr Donald Trump.
I hope to finish this engrossing and absorbing nook next week, but do not intend reviewing it.
The Central government should without delay take action to monitor the manner in which the Delhi government is handling or mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. New Delhi and Delhi now have the dubious distinction of having the second largest number of Covid cases after New York. With winter upon us, the situation is likely to get worse. Shortage of beds and ventilators will multiply by the day. Who knows when the vaccine will arrive in India? The distribution problem will be acute. We are not the most caring or efficient country in the world. It’s time the Delhi government paid heed to the strictures passed against it by the High Court.