“The Promise of America” by Charles L. Freeman

Originally written on November 7, 2012 for English 103 at Los Angeles Trade Technical College

If one accepts the idea that America’s founders truly believed in a society based on individual freedoms and a government “of the people, for the people and by the people”, the one must also accept the premise that we are all created equal. This idea, in its purest form, works regardless of one’s color, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc. The problem America faces today in making this come true is the lingering intransigence of those in power that embrace and strive to uphold the long-standing status quo. In order to make President Obama’s inspiring words come true, Americans must come together without the burden of who and what we are hanging over us like the sword that hung over Damocles.

President Obama is one hundred percent correct when he says “you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try”, without who and what you are, what you look like, where you came from and who you choose to love mattering. However, one day after his re-election as president, Mr. Obama’s words, eloquent and inspiring as they are to many, stand as a stark threat to those who prefer things to remain status quo. These people, who cling to the quaint notion of “an America I grew up in” and/or want to “take back America”, would be the first to disagree with the president’s acceptance speech, for it is the changing demographic face of America that scares them to death.

Ideally, our president shouldn’t have to remind us of our differences. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that one’s color, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. shouldn’t be a barrier or obstacle to one’s achieving their goals and aspirations. But, because those who have had the power for so many years see it and their dominant cultural identity fading away, President Obama was correct when he reminded us of this. In fact, based on the polarization that has marked our political process in recent years, it’s almost his duty or obligation as our first non-white president to do so,

We live in a much different time than just twenty years ago when the last Democratic president to win a second term, Bill Clinton was elected. It was during his time in office that many people of color, women and different backgrounds served in some of our nation’s highest governmental positions. And yet, Clinton was the Commander-In-Chief who instituted the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on sexual orientation in the armed forces. Who could have imagined that an African-American president, less than two decades later, would be the one to repeal that policy and one year later, come out in support of same-sex marriage.

Fear, in and of itself, is a powerful tool that those in charge use to keep their underlings, or in this case, citizens under control. By declaring that “anyone willing to work hard…if you’re willing to try”, can make it in America, President Obama has issued both a challenge and a warning in the same speech. For those trying to make it, he sought to inspire them to put in the time and effort needed to achieve their dreams and goals. And at the same time, he warned those seeking to maintain the status quo that there’s a new day in America and they need to get with the program.

The promise of America is both an ideal and a reality. It’s up to all of us to turn that ideal into reality for as many as possible.


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