Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Barack Obama: Where Did Everyone Go?!

During the Presidential campaign, Barack Obama's words created an inspiring vision of wonderful possibilities. He spoke of what could be, what needed to be, and how it would become reality. We heard the specifics, we felt the sincerity. The response was overwhelmingly affirmative at the voting booths. The anticipation brought about a massive gathering in a Chicago park.

Some forty years earlier, in the same park, the city and it's Mayor put on a display of brutality for the emerging network television media. The images rivaled the nightly horrors being broadcast from Vietnam. But as the old spiritual goes, " the times they are a changin' ". This time, the Mayor, son of the former, presided over a peaceful celebration of the man who embodies much of the ideals beaten down in that park. And the whole world was watching.

Here we are, fifty days into President Obama's term and evidence of his vision for America is everywhere. His promises are being fulfilled at a rapid pace. He began reforms at home by beefing up ethics rules at the White House. His stem cell policy (now law), a major campaign commitment allows science to advance and provide the best possible environment for medical breakthroughs.

Guantanamo Bay prison on the island of Cuba is phasing out, with definite dates in place. As outlined in the campaign, almost twenty billion dollars will be included in the stimulus plan to convert medical records to electronic formats. Similar stimulus funds are in place for the nation's infrastructural repairs, as promised. Envoys are busy around the globe, working on issues such as Israel and Palestine.

That is why it truly pains me to express that which I feel must be said. I am referring to public service and the people who have actually decided to defy the call to arms. With the country in the midst of what I described in an earlier column as World War III, and with the President walking point, I find desertion to be inexcusable.

But that's exactly what is happening with some of the people who have been called to serve along side of the President. Annette Nazareth, the potential chief deputy to Tim Geithner and a former senior staffer and commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has decided she has better things to do.

Caroline Atkinson, also withdrew from consideration, leaving Mr. Geithner with the task of spending his time looking for people willing to serve in this battle, as opposed to leading it. U.S. cyber security chief Rod Beckstrom has fled as well. This in a time of unparrelled danger in cyber warfare directed at his country.

Dr Sanjay Gupta, who agreed in principle to become Surgeon General, took himself out of the running, saying: "It really came down to a sense of timing more than anything else. You know, I have two daughters. Our third daughter is now imminent." Now that's an interesting statement. The President said he sought office because of his daughter's.

There are 1,200 government jobs that require Senate confirmation. 360 are policy jobs. Less than 100 of those jobs have been filled so far.* Is money and comfort a reason to turn the other way when your country needs you? Were the words of John Kennedy merely poetry to be enjoyed from the safety of your home? It is time to stand up and be counted. Do what you can. Volunteer, write it down in a blog. Make some noise. Whatever you do, don't quit.

"Success is not final...failure is not fatal...it is the courage to continue that counts".
- Winston Churchill

* White House Transition Project