A pep talk for the president


To the Editor:

This is a copy of a letter to President Obama.

Like your father, I came to this country as a foreign student and was in Cambridge some years before him, early Fifties to be exact. Also, I came not from Kenya, but from Holland where I spent my teenage years during WW II, enduring the hunger-winter of 1945, Liberation, and the difficult years before the Marshall Plan. But I also worked as an interpreter and guide at the very first “Congress of Europe” in 1948 in The Hague, with all the hope and fervor that a united Europe, with all its past history and wars, should be a possibility and had to happen in the future.

Through a fluke reservation in a train to Paris, I ended up as a foreign student in the United States three years later, with $80 in my pocket, shortly before President Truman fired General MacArthur. I nearly got booted out of the university dining hall, because I thought that President Truman was right, and I dared say so.

Working my way through school, three years later I studied for my doctorate in political science at NYU, at a special “United Nations and World Affairs Program.” I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure that war, man’s inhumanity to man, would not happen again. At NYU, a fellow student and friend of mine was from Kenya, at that time married to a white American woman, and he wrote a book “Child of Two Worlds” by R(ueul) Mugo Gatheru. He was a Kikuyu. When I first read your “Dreams from my Father,” I wanted to let you know about Mugo’s book. It may be out of print, but I now work and live on Martha’s Vineyard, and I’ll gladly let you have my copy.

My interests in politics, in world affairs, have never abated. I did work for what was called “The Experiment in International Living” (now “World Learning”) out of Vermont. While you were at Harvard, I had just finished my 17-year tenure as director of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education on Brattle Street, with a terrific conference I organized on “Education for the 21st Century” with members of the Club of Rome, UNESCO, the World Future Society and educators from around the country.

I am writing you because I so very, very much want you to succeed.

This country, now more than ever, needs you so as to get out of the holes we have dug for ourselves in these later years. Already, you have done an extraordinary job in the legislation you have been able to sign off on in this short period of time. Of course we need your intellect, your charm, your sensibility. This election we need your emotional sense of what is right or wrong, clearly stated; we need your sense of optimism about life, America, the future, and above all we need your passion, especially your passion, to make things right for people in America.

At some point I came across a statement I have never forgotten: “There is such goodness in the American people that is going begging to be used.” That goodness responds to passion, and programs communicated in straightforward terms. That goodness isn’t bound by “deficits,” the club your opponents have found to hammer you with and which now has just about every political figure scurrying for cover from what has become this “deficit wrath of righteousness.” We do need to hear about short-term deficits and long-term deficits and how the short-term ones are good and legitimate and help create solutions for the long-term ones through growth, economy and efficiency.

You are the best that has happened to America in a long time. Please allow people to recognize that by trumpeting your actual successes in this very short period of time and by glamorizing your positive visions for these next two or six years. Please expose and clearly label your opponents and the obstructions they have caused unjustly, to foster their own short-term political gains, rather than for love of country. This love of country, so easily hijacked, let it be yours and America’s, all the way.

Thank you for your attention.

Alida J. O’Loughlin

Vineyard Haven