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Obama, America and the future

I am 60-years old. I was 15-years old when they shot John F. Kennedy on November 22nd 1963 exactly 45 years ago today as I write. I was 20 on April 14th 1968 when they shot Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee.

I am 60-years old. I was 15-years old when they shot John F. Kennedy on November 22nd 1963 exactly 45 years ago today as I write. I was 20 on April 14th 1968 when they shot Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee. A few months later, I was 21 when they shot Robert F. Kennedy who had the most potential of all the Kennedys to galvanize America to be its best self. Embedded in my memory forever is the sight of the American people lining the railway tracks across America as they brought RFK home for burial, of the inner cities of America smoldering after King's death and the lonely vigil of Jacqueline, Caroline and John-John following the horse-drawn casket of their dead father to his grave.

In November of 1969 I went to Washington with 600,000 other people to protest the War in Vietnam. I was a student at university at the time and they were heart-breaking and exciting times to be a young person in this world.

After university my focus turned to Northern Ontario, but my ties to the American experience were not over. In 1980, I launched Northern Ontario Business newspaper and at that time joined a fabulous entrepreneurial group of independent publishers who were starting similar publications across America. Some 10 years later I became president of that organization.

My adult view on the changing American landscape was influenced by my ownership of a state-wide business magazine in Manchester, New Hampshire. I owned it with a partner for nearly 20 years and of course as a media owner in New Hampshire, every four years, I was important for 10 minutes as the primary circus came to town. It taught me much about America.

I have had a love-hate relationship with America all my life. On the one hand, It is a violent, arrogant, greedy, lost, self-centered, almost soulless society in so many ways. It is also a creative, passionate, risk-taking, powerful, entrepreneurial, enlightened, brave, dare I say naïve, society on the other. It is at war with itself which is why its passions are so infectious and its extremes so divergent.

I have always felt the American people were held hostage by their political class, which has been by and large corrupt and in place to serve the companies who pay the bills to put them there. Whether it is the ad nauseous talk of the freedom to justify anything, from torture to napalm or the steadfast failure to provide health care for their people or the worship of the handgun, the political class in America has been sadly lacking since the heady days of Martin, Robert and John.

It is a strange place. Just when you give up all hope they grab your heart again.

There I was, 45-years later, sitting in the basement watching one of the finest political acceptance speeches I have ever witnessed in front of tens of thousands of cheering Americans who seem to have finally risen up and said enough is enough. It was a miracle.

Although the first Black President of the United States did not get a majority of the white votes he got a lot them and this I would not have believed a month ago. I bet against Obama not because I didn't hope he would become president but because I didn't think the American people would do it. In effect, I bet against the American people and I was wrong. They actually threw the crooks out and broke new ground although the financial system had to collapse to make it happen.

It was extraordinary. Obama is right. It is not about him. It is about the American people. It was about the hundreds of thousands of people who contributed to his campaign, about the millions who stood in the sleet and rain and waited and waited to make their mark to stand up for their country and some semblance of sanity. It was a triumph of the American spirit.

He's one man. He will make mistakes and he will look ordinary quickly like we all do. But what is for sure, whatever happens tomorrow, whatever financial or personal tragedies await, the American people stood up and took their country back.

It was astonishing and gratifying. It reminded me of what might have been so many years ago.

Michael Atkins
Laurentian Media Group