It’s Your Choice – Part 2
(Editor’s Note: Mr. Brosius continues today with Part 2 of a three part column comparing Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, and Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee for President of The United States.)
Senator Obama’s formative childhood years were unsettling and disruptive. (Words in quotes in this section are copied from “Dreams From My Father,” written by Senator Obama).
Regarding his mother’s marriage: “In fact, how and when the marriage [to Barack Obama, Sr.] occurred remains a bit murky, a bill of particulars I have never quite had the courage to explore. There’s no record of a real wedding, a cake, a ring, a giving away of the bride. No families were in attendance; it’s not even clear that people back in Kansas [where his mother’s parents lived] were fully informed.” [Thus the question: were they ever married?]
His mother was white, a non-conformist, native of Kansas; his father black, a native of Kenya, (not descendant from slaves). Senator Obama’s family was unstable from the time he was born. By age five, his mother had divorced twice; there was no father figure as he grew up. His mother was a radical, out-of-the-mainstream, woman who defied convention. She abandoned him at an early age to pursue her own considerable interests, leaving it to grandparents to raise the child.
He describes his father unfavorably. “My father remained a myth to me, both more and less than a man. He had left Hawaii in 1963, when I was two years old, so that as a child I knew him only through the stories that my mother and grandparents told.” [His father paid him a short visit in Hawaii when he was in his teens, the only time he saw him after abandoning wife and son].
“At the point where my own memories begin, my mother had already begun a courtship with the man who would become her second husband, and I sensed without explanation why the photographs [of her first husband] had to be stored away. “I was too young to know that I was supposed to have a live-in father, just as I was too young to know that I needed a race.”
At age nine his mother and her new black husband took him to Indonesia. “We had lived in Indonesia for over three years by that time, the result of my mother’s marriage to an Indonesian named Lolo, another student she had met at the University of Hawaii. Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more animist and Hindu faiths.” He advised young Obama: “Better to be strong. If you can’t be strong, be clever and make peace with someone who’s strong. But always better to be strong yourself. Always.”
Senator McCain’s father and grandfather were four-star admirals. He grew up in a solid family, and held his grandparents and parents in high regard. He graduated from the Naval Academy, which his son now attends.
At the academy he came in conflict with higher ranking student personnel, did not always obey the rules, and that contributed to a low class rank (894 of 988). However, he did well in subjects that interested him, like literature and history, but studied only enough to pass subjects he did not like, such as mathematics. He enrolled for flight training, and at age 30 requested combat duty as a pilot; was severely injured and almost killed in a major fire aboard the USS Forrestal.
Recovered from near death, he again volunteered as a fighter-bomber pilot in Vietnam. He was shot down over Hanoi on his 23rd combat mission, and was subjected to severe torture for five-and-a-half years, declining preferential treatment that would have earned him released. He stood fast to the honor principal that prisoners should be released in the same sequence as they were captured. He volunteered to put himself in harm’s way; his life was at risk as a pilot as well as a POW.
Senator Obama’s wife, Michelle, is well educated, articulate, and presents herself well. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard. She and the senator have two daughters in private school. She works in “community outreach” for a hospital in Chicago. Living with a lot of racial anger, Michelle said early in the campaign: “For the first time in my life I am proud to be an American.”
Senator McCain’s wife, Cindy, is a charming, articulate, beautiful, woman, who has her own career as CEO of her large business. She holds a Masters’ in special education; is active in charitable works worldwide, and has organized several major projects, among them the removal of explosive mines from old battlefields.
On one charity-driven visit to an orphanage she came across an abandoned three-month-old baby girl with a cleft palate. She brought the child back to the states, and had her infirmities surgically corrected. She and husband John adopted this little black Bangladeshi, who is now 14 years old. They have a daughter, Meghan, one son in the Naval Academy, another son in service in Iraq. Senator McCain and his first wife, apart for six years by reason of his Vietnam War service and imprisonment, were divorced after this extended separation. They remain friends.
Question: Which of these two women could measure up to or exceed Jackie Kennedy as First Lady in the White House?
On Monday I’ll conclude this analysis.