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FEBRUARY 4, 2017


Eight years ago, the unthinkable happened in the United States of America, a black man was elected president.  Although black actors played the President on television shows or movies few people of color thought it would happen in real life.   On the day, the young senator from Illinois stood before the Old State Capital building in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln once called on a divided house to stay together, and announced his candidacy for the presidency, few gave him a fighting chance of winning the primary.  No one who knew him doubted his brilliance.  He was a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School and the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review.  He had worked as a community organizer in one of the most troubled areas of Chicago and was a professor in Constitutional law at the University of Chicago.  Still, he had only been in politics for ten years serving as an Illinois State Senator from 1997-2005, and a United States Senator from 2005-2007.  One of the leading Chicago newspapers observed that he had the thinnest political resume of any of the primary candidates.  Despite all the odds against him Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States in 2007 and was re-elected four years later.  He immediately became a symbol of hope for millions and his efforts to strengthen international diplomacy, resolve international conflict, stimulate arms control agreements, foster international attention on climate control, and foster cooperation between peoples moved the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.
 
As president, he immediately became a polarizing figure.  Many adored him and prayed that he would be successful, while others plotted from his first day in office to make sure he would only be a one term president.  His supporters admired his calm and thoughtful approach to problems, while his detractors accused him of being “arrogant” because he refused to be servile and remained a dignified tower of strength in every situation.  He constantly fought to lead the nation to listen to its “better angels”.  Though he was assailed on every side by those who could not stand the thought of a black man as commander and chief of the armed forces, even his enemies admitted that he was a good and decent man who was a great dad and husband.  At the Democratic National Convention in 2016 he quoted a letter written to him by a man who said that he disagreed with almost all of the President’s policies, but was impressed by the fact that he was such a good husband and father.
 
There are those who say that Barack Obama’s family life was so dysfunctional he never should have had a good family himself.  His father and mother divorced when he was a toddler and he would only see him one other time in his life.  His mother remarried and moved to Indonesia with her husband but a black child had no place in his step-father’s home or country.  His white grandparents took him to live with them in Hawaii and rescued him from the torment he suffered in Indonesia.  This child of a single parent, deserted by a father who drank himself to death, discriminated against in a foreign country, and raised by grandparents in a small apartment overlooking a basketball court, could easily have followed his father’s path, but he didn’t.
Barack Obama decided to be a different kind of father and husband than his father.  He decided that the cycle of family instability would not continue, and he resolved to be a better man than his dad.  He never used his problems growing up as an excuse to drift into mediocrity and self-pity.  He worked to carve a different path for his life.  It wasn’t easy, but the Obamas have shown us that it is possible to live with the eyes of the world on you and be scandal free.  Though President Obama doesn’t wave a religious flag he has often spoken of his faith and daily Bible reading as fundamental to the development of the man he has become.  The man we still love to call, “Mr. President”.