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Sunday, May 4, 2008

What I know about Obama

I am from Illinois. I was raised, schooled, and worked there 45 years before I moved west for a professorship. I have family in Illinois, I have an interest in many enterprises in Illinois, including politics, and so I keep up with goings on in that state.

While I lived n Chicago at various times. I was for the most part a downstate resident, living on the western border on the Mississippi River. Chicago is a political behemoth in Illinois because of the huge concentration of population around the shores of Lake Michigan. To get any kind of political equity in Illinois, no matter which party one identifies with, politicians have to learn the art of creating working relationships with people with whom they do not agree on many issues. Developing this kind of working rapport to get things done has been essential since the time of Lincoln.

One of Illinois' most successful politicians at working with people from all affiliations was the late Sen. Paul Simon. He first made his mark as a journalist who formed a group of downstate weekly newspapers into a force for investigative journalism and reform. He was a fiscal conservative and social liberal whose focus on government was for the welfare of the people and the success of the communities. During a campaign for the presidency in 1988, he said "Government is not the enemy; Government is simply a tool that can be used wisely or unwisely. We can do better, my friends." Doing better was his guiding standard.

After deciding not to run for re-election in 1996, Paul Simon returned to Illinois to establish a school of public affairs and service at Southern Illinois University. He continued to be a force for reasoned politics and reaching across party lines and ideologies to work for the good of the people and the country.

Paul Simon called attention to Barack Obama, at that time a member of the Illinois Senate who had accrued an admirable record as a community organizer in Chicago. He urged Obama to run for the U.S Senate. Paul Simon died following heart surgery in 2003 but his endorsement of Obama was used posthumously and Simon's daughter actively supported Obama in the campaign.

Once in the U.S. Senate, Obama's incisive intelligence, his work to rise above the petty partisanship, peevish bickering, and insane personal attacks as the stuff of politics quickly showed him to be presidential material. A huge segment of Americans realizes that one of the biggest threats to the nation is the stupidly partisan deadlocks, the peurile bickering, and the low-life nastiness that so many people think is the stuff of ,political discourse.

As Paul Simon pointed out, Obama may represent our last best hope at pulling our nation out of the demented morass in which it is mired.

Barack Obama has appealed to those who recognize the cheap, malicious, and partisan-bound discourse that is purveyed by the media and its emulators as the biggest impediment to decent, intelligent government. He is the only candidate who has shown that he wants to lead America into the enlightened state so many of us want to be.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States