Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Barack Obama: Campaign of Hope

Before now, I didn't have much to say about political campaigns. I'll admit it, I was cynical. I figured politicians were just a bunch of sleazy and ignorant crooks who didn't care about the best interests of anyone but themselves and the lobbyists who bankrolled their campaigns.

Where does a bad attitude like that, multiplied by millions of similarly disaffected citizens, leave us?

There's a speech Barack Obama sometimes gives when he's campaigning. First he talks about all the things we need to do in the United States, but can't do because we're bogged down in Iraq. He goes on to ask how we got into this situation. Someone always yells "George Bush!" After a moment he goes on to say, no, it's not just George Bush, it's all the cynicism and apathy and low expectations surrounding today's politics. We're the ones who got ourselves into this mess.

And that's exactly right. As long as we expect our politicians to be crooks and ignoramuses, that's just what we're going to get. If we want leaders who have integrity and who regard public service as a sacred trust, then we're going to have to treat the political process with more respect and put much more thought and effort into it.

Before he got involved in politics, Barack Obama was a professor teaching constitutional law. His bestselling book has a chapter about the hope and promise of the Constitution. How cool is that? (OK, I'm a geek, but I find it very refreshing to discover a politician who genuinely understands the importance of the rule of law in shaping the development of a society.)

In our turbulent multicultural world, we need leaders who recognize that human diversity has many facets and dimensions. I'm not referring to Obama's race or color here, but to his experiences living in different parts of the world and interacting with people from a wide variety of social and cultural backgrounds. If any of our presidential candidates has the cross-cultural savvy to sort out the mess in the Middle East, it is Obama. If any of our presidential candidates is capable of seeing through the "autism awareness" propaganda and realizing that autistic citizens are human beings who deserve equal rights, it is Obama.

His campaign website includes group pages where supporters with various interests write about why they support his campaign. One such group is made up of parents with autistic children who seek to bring about positive changes in our society's attitudes toward neurological differences. On that page, a mother wrote:

Our fellow Americans with developmental disabilities are still the unseen and the unheard. The discomfort and unappreciation of their value, their gifts and their equal rights is a reality that must change. Recognition and response to participate and be part of this change with Senator Obama is critical for us - both in the most basic necessities of quality of life, healthcare, education, jobs and housing, but equally that we have a place in the America he sees as possible. That we all do matter and if you have a developmental disability you are just as much an American as all of us...

What a breath of fresh air.

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  • Very interesting page, that. The focus seems to be on services as opposed to "intervention" and there's even a mention of the importance of jobs for people with developmental disabilities.

    I wonder if we could get Obama's ear as autistic adults? Would he respond to a letter regarding our interests and views on research funds, etc?

    I, too, have avoided mainstream politics, finding it all too corrupt and depressing. The possibility (however slim) of having an enlightened president, though...it's enough to make a person stop and reconsider.

    By Blogger Bev, at 9:39 AM  

  • And it is good to see they are not just talking about autism, but rather the needs of people with all kinds of disabilities.

    I'd be happy if either Obama or Edwards became the next president of the United States. Both of them will be concerned with the most disadvantaged people and their health and education needs.

    By Blogger Another Autism Mom, at 11:46 AM  

  • When I lived in IL Obama talked to me, knowing full well I am an autistic adult (and I was BARELY an adult, IIRC...). He came across as sincere, intelligent, and non condescending. I didn't talk his ear off about autistic rights-we chatted a bit about dev. difference rights in general, and about abysmal services for homeless folks. What really struck me is he did NOT once say "but you're so high functioning" or "but the children".

    So he's got my vote...has had it for a while. Not condescending to someone who nearly tackles you and is dripping wet from playing in an outdoor fountain (and is wearing pigtails) is really something....

    By Blogger Neurodivergent K, at 3:30 PM  

  • Bev: I'm sure the campaign keeps track of how many letters are received on various topics, but candidates rarely have the time to write personal responses.

    AAM: I noticed that you didn't mention the other leading Democratic candidate, and she would indeed be bad news for autistic citizens (more on that in my next post).

    Kassiane: If you have the time to write a post on your blog about your conversation with Obama, I'd be very interested to read more!

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:36 AM  

  • another autism mom writes:
    Please give credit where so much credit is due. HIllary Clinton's accomplishments are constantly played down and her character demonized. This is unfair. As a mother of an autistic child who used to live in NY, I can tell you she did plenty to improve and fund intervention services for my 5-year-old son. We made the mistake of moving out of NY and I regret that we may have to move back if Barack Obama doesn't put this issue on his short list on a national level. I know firsthand of Hillary's accomplishments in raising money and awareness; yet I am not aware of any legislation Obama has put forth directly relating to autistic Americans. If he is to become our next President, I am hoping he will swiftly act on our behalf.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:25 PM  

  • Senators Obama. Clinton and McCain have been asked to speak out on Autism on the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April:


    World Autism Awareness Day falls on Wednesday 2nd April. The United Nations General Assembly in New York will mark this historic day called for by the State of Qatar. Events are now being organised across the United States of America and around the world.There are 60 million people with autism around the world, many suffer without access to public services.

    In the US, according to the CDC, 1 in 150 children are on the autism spectrum and numbers seem to be increasing all the time. Autism campaigners are now calling on the the Democratic candidates Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, as well as the Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain to make public statements on Wednesday 2nd April on the World Autism Awareness Day and show how they plan to support parents, carers and people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in every state in America. Campaigners are calling on all three political figures to speak out on autism.

    Senator John McCain has already stepped into the autism debate while on the campaign trail. “It’s indisputable that autism is on the rise among children,” Senator McCain said while campaigning recently in Texas. “The question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

    However autism campaigners want to hear specific plan from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. They want to know how the candidates would reach out to parents, carers and people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome with reference to providing better public services for all - in every state and funding for independent research. The time has come for the candidates to spell out their plans for autism, and the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April provides Obama, Clinton and McCain with the ideal platform to clearly state how they plan to provide funding and public services.

    The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also been urged to make a statement on autism and launch a World Autism Strategy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:31 PM  

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