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La Lección de Obama por Eduardo Morgan Jr.

by Eduardo Morgan, Jr.

January 2009

The election of Barack Obama has shown the world that the American people have taken yet another step towards its improvement as a nation. The United States, rich in natural resources, has been wise in exploiting that richness, thanks to the existence of educated people who, very early in its history, understood that to invest in education was the way to become great. That education, fostering the passion to learn, to expand knowledge, has given its fruits to those living in that privileged country and the rest of humankind as well.

The inventions and discoveries made in the field of science and arts in the USA and from which those who inhabit this planet have profited are countless. Noteworthy are their achievements in aviation, agriculture, and medicine (the vaccine against polio, among others). It comes to mind the satellite communications that the USA made available to other countries (creating the international organization INTELSAT). And perhaps the most impressive of all technologies, the one  that unifies the world: the INTERNET, which erases frontiers and distances, and offers an almost unlimited universe of information.

Political theories are yet another field in which American thinkers have contributed to human development. Its democratic system is constantly being improved. And this democracy exists not just in theory but in practice too. “The government of the people, by the people, for the people…”, the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, enclose the philosophical meaning of free elections and a democratic and responsible government for its citizens.

The jewels of their culture, exceptional educational institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Georgetown, to mention a few, educate these people’s elite. The most remarkable scientists and political leaders come out from them; extraordinary public administrators, lawyers, engineers, and other professionals are trained there. They are highly reputed institutions opened to all Americans (and to not a few foreigners), where social status, race or financial condition do not matter.

Barack Obama is the product of this system. His great intelligence and personality allowed him to be educated first at Columbia, and then at Harvard Law School. He is the first African-American, by self-definition, to become editor of the Harvard Law Review. Getting an education at this University and the distinction of leading this prestigious magazine lead a person to exclusive Law circles. Undoubtedly, Barack Obama is an exceptional man who could have not gotten this far had he lacked the sound education that, until a few years ago, was denied to African-Americans; from elementary school they received a deficient and discriminatory education, the reason why the civil rights movement centered its objective in ending this difference.

The process was long. The abolition of slavery was followed by racial segregation. We saw it in Panama, in the old Canal Zone; schools and other services were segregated, and the quality of education for “non-whites” was extremely poor. It was not until the Remon-Eisenhower treaty that the American government undertook to eliminate it (the “zonians” turned it around and established the “Latin American schools” to avoid integration).

Martin Luther King´s and other outstanding people of the civil rights movement fight focused on integrating education. To have African-Americans accepted in white schools, even when these were in other neighborhoods, was a hard struggle. In the end, that great civil rights leader, President Lyndon Johnson, forced integration through the famous “busing”, the transportation of black students into white neighborhoods and vice versa. Thanks to education, the absurd walls of segregation and of skin color as a reference to value in the American society started to crumble. It is then that the final and real “melting pot” takes place.

It is this new society, headed by the extraordinary man, who finally mixed the ingredients, the one that will face the challenges the new millennium present humankind. New eyes will see that greed and immorality should not be the object of capitalism; that being the strongest does not grant the right to submit the weaker; that the lords of war need to be exposed; and to remember the warning of Dwight Eisenhower that the Industrial Military Complex was the great danger of the USA. They are the ones that create and incite conflict to justify military budgets that are larger than the sum of the military budgets from the rest of the countries in the world combined.

In the end, we will see a renewed country that will respect the United Nations again, that creation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the perfect instrument to preserve peace and repair all the damage of the Bush administration to the American people and humankind. What should Panamanians learn from Obama’s example? That education is the key to the prosperity of a country and growth of human beings.


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