Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Amazing Grace

As millions of people around the globe tuned in to witness the Presidential inauguration, many of them also watched with confusion as President Obama reached out his arm and instead of doing a traditional wave, stuck his pinky finger and thumb out to greet the crowd. Newscasters scrambled to figure out the meaning of this sign and what its purpose was. Meanwhile, Hawaiians back on the islands smiled as if the motion had been a secret handshake that nobody else was privy to. Deep down, Hawaiians understood the message that the President was sending; he was from Hawaii.

Ordinarily, the “shaka” is not a symbol that one gives much thought to. It merely means, aloha to those of us who reside in Hawaii. To the President, it too was probably unrehearsed but its impact on Hawaii could not have been better calculated. More than ever, the State of Hawaii felt a tremendous amount of pride as they saw a “local boy” reach the highest public office in the land. In a sense, many of them felt as though they too had made it.

The “shaka” moment should not over analyzed. It didn’t mean that he had won over those voters who disapproved of him back in Hawaii. It didn’t mean that he was going to appear at all public events in a showering of leis (which is customary) and it certainly didn’t mean that he was going to shape his policies around his home state. Essentially, what it represented was that he knew what the “shaka” meant and what it meant to the people of Hawaii. It was genuine and thoughtful and for that he deserves the gesture back.

In these uncertain economic times it’s unfortunate that other public officials and wall street executives haven’t followed suit in an attempt to reach out to the public. For many Americans this is a reminder of the gap between “us and them.” Someone responsible ought to show remorse, send out an olive branch and then find a way to relate with the way the rest of the country is living. Although there are some who are worse off than others, we are all in this mess together.

It seems obvious the sense of responsibility that needs to be displayed and yet none of these so-called leaders are taking that step. Americans know that there’s not a panacea for the ills of our economy but we do know more can be done that just throwing money at the problem. With all of the trillions of dollars that are being used to raise the deficit, Americans still walk away with the feeling of an empty stomach as if to say "here's your cash, now get out of my business."

This gap between what is logical and what is the "right thing to do" could be closed if we all saw each other as equals. Rather, we tend to believe that the amount of money someone holds in their bank account actually makes them more deserving of certain privileges or rights. We think, maybe their concerns and issues are a higher priority than those who work for minimum wage. This socially accepted practice of caring more about class and money has been the downfall of what was originally supposed to make America unique and prosperous to begin with...that is inalienable rights. Thus my proposal is for the big wigs with the big checkbooks to step out from behind their desks and to make a simple apology. Sure, that's not going to revive someone's 401K, college fund or foreclosure, but it will show a little decency and is a step in the right direction.

Whether the President is traveling around the world and speaking with countries from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, or discussing policy on capital hill, he always finds a way to connect by reaching a common ground with those he speaks with. If wall street can take away anything from the President, it would be that a little “shaka” can go a long way. And if they choose to utilize such gestures, they need not be mere lip service. The act must be one of heartfelt consideration. Because after all, isn’t being considered all we want in the first place?

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