Former New York City mayor and Vanderbilt’s upcoming IMPACT Symposium Speaker, Rudy Giuliani, created a political firestorm earlier this month, with private comments he made during a dinner for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
At this dinner, Giuliani remarked, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” Shortly after, Giuliani attempted to distance himself from the previous remarks by writing an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. In it he writes, “My intended focus really was the effect his words and his actions have on the morale of the country, and how that effect may damage his performance.”
Interestingly enough, Obama’s political performance and oratorical rhetoric is likely to go down as some of the most riveting in history – not only boosting his political career to new heights following his epic 2004 DNC Convention Keynote Speech, but also serving as a source of hope and inspiration for millions of Americans going through the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In his speech and action, President Obama goes much farther than defying Giuliani’s critique that he “doesn’t love America” – Obama is much more than just a memorable speaker or a great leader – he is the personification of the American dream. He’s a living symbol of what America stands for. At the beginning of his Keynote Speech in 2004, Obama begins by pointing out that his “presence on this stage is pretty unlikely,” and delves into his complicated background with his American mother and immigrant father, his ability to overcome obstacles due to America’s equality of opportunity, and his belief that the audacity of hope is “the bedrock of this nation.” His appreciation of the diversity of his heritage, combined by his love for and belief in the values which guide America, indicate that he is the true embodiment of the American dream.
This does not square with what Mayor Giuliani later said as to why President Obama is American; Giuliani said his comments were not racist because President Obama “was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people.” President Obama’s story and vision goes much deeper than being raised and educated by “white people” – it shows that there is a place in America for anyone, regardless of race, income, and social barriers that seem to divide us.
Giuliani’s remarks echo the same ludicrous sentiment by some during the 2008 elections, who questioned the legitimacy of his Hawaiian birth certificate. In an attempt to label President Obama as “un-American,” politicians constantly attempt to make sometimes inane and at other times ad-hominem attacks in an attempt to divert attention from important issues at hand.
Mayor Giuliani appears to have recognized his mistake and rectified it in the middle of his piece. Giuliani inserted seemingly redeemable words he had earlier uttered in the Wall Street Journal stating, “Obviously, I cannot read President Obama’s mind or heart, and to the extent that my words suggested otherwise, it was not my intention. When asked last week whether I thought the president was a patriot, I said I did, and would repeat that. I bear him no ill will, and in fact think that his personal journey is inspiring and a testament to much of what makes this country great.”
Immediately after, however, in a confounding twist, Giuliani does not miss the opportunity to follow up with extraneous critiques of President Obama’ policies. In an attempt to subtly justify his prior comments, Giuliani critiques the President by arguing that President Obama does not value and share the concept of American exceptionalism which Presidents Reagan, Kennedy, Clinton, and others possessed, which leaves him with “a stark lack of moral clarity.” He then criticized President Obama’s refusal to accept the term “Islamic extremism,” which President Obama had deliberately avoided to use in an attempt to deny ISIS and al Qaeda oft-craven religious legitimacy from America.
These critiques were an attempt to distract Americans from his previously distasteful comments, and to try to find more arguable reasons to deride President Obama to bolster his position in the Republican Party.
In one of his best speeches ever, during the 2008 campaign in Wisconsin, President Obama exhorted the American public that ‘words do matter’, that ‘hope and change’ make a difference. President Kennedy did not look up at the Moon and decided it was too far. In line with the vision he laid out that day, President Obama is on his way to deliver on his vision and promises. He achieved health care reform that no other country has been able to deliver before. America is now a powerhouse in the world of energy with the largest production of oil and natural gas in the world, yet with revolutionary policies on fuel emission and green energy that will reduce America’s carbon footprint. Discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation is coming to an end. Despite inadequate assistance from Congress, his executive order on immigration has lighted the lives of millions of dreamers. The American economy is marching ahead with innovation and new ideas. It is investing in infrastructure again; its financial foundations are on firmer footing; and its policy of collaborative and peaceful engagement has won over alliances and friendships all over the world.
In essence, President Obama, thoughtful and introverted though he may be, will probably go down in history as one of America’s greatest Presidents ever, standing as living proof of the American Dream, and forever a beacon of hope for millions in this country who dare to dream.