Friday, November 07, 2008

Welcome the Intellectually Elite Leader of the Free World

Obama's election is even the more remarkable because of the latent fear and suspicion aroused in the average American towards the intellectual elite. Obama is a supreme example of the educated, well-read, smart achiever who rises above the mediocre yet doesn't condescend to his audience. In fact, he is the ultimate teacher who asks those around him to rise to his level, while making them feel that it's possible if not inevitable.

The clarity of these aspects of his character--humility alongside of confidence--were clear in his first press conference today as President Elect. In his brief answer to a question about what he is reading to prepare for taking office, he simply stated,

"I have re-read some of Lincoln's writings, who's always an extraordinary inspiration."

What is fascinating about this remark is that, with all due respect to a good guess, Obama has probably read more than the reporter who asked the question, not to mention most of his fellow citizens. The reference to the Lincoln passages are assumed to be a throw-away line from a man who most likely devours more, in a single sitting, of articles and literature than most of us do in a lot longer amount of time.

So it came as no surprise in a short AP blurb in the Los Angeles Times to read that Obama is considered a peer among his fellow writers, including some of the greatest of living authors.

"Dreams From My Father" and Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" have each sold millions of copies and have been praised as the rare works by politicians that can be read for pleasure. Obama's student poetry was even lauded -- and compared to Langston Hughes' work -- by the most discerning of critics, Harold Bloom.

JFK, a speed reader and quick on his feet, and Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar and considered brilliant among presidents, were two who occupied the White House within memory who triumphed because of their intellect. No doubt Obama follows in this tradition, but even more obvious at this point in history, following the presidency of one of the prime examples of willful ignorance and stupidity, is the shining reason this country needs leadership of the true elite, intellectual as well as courageous. And we can take pride that's what we voted for.

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