I wonder if Barack Obama ever read Rudyard Kipling’s novel, Kim, about a half-British, half-Indian child growing up happily, as Barack did, in an amazingly diverse culture; Kim’s world was India, Barack’s Hawaii and Indonesia. Kim’s nickname was “little friend of all the world,” and he, like Barack, drew on his hard-won expertise in navigating a mysteriously multi-faceted childhood world to later become successful in “the great game” of politics.
Certainly, Kipling’s own memories of growing up in British Raj India influenced his own many adult contributions as an eloquent communicator and cultural ambassador.
I thought about these many fascinating commonalities while reading Amanda Ripley’s story in today’s Time Magazine about Barack’s anthropologist mother. What adventures she and Barack shared living in the fascinating mélange that is Indonesia—17,500 islands, 230 million people, 300 languages, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Dutch/Christian traditions–and later in multicultural Hawaii, where Barack attended, on scholarship, a prestigious private high school.
Among Barack’s many strengths as a Presidential candidate are his openness to different cultural and political perspectives, and his non-polarizing, accepting attitude toward people from all walks of life. No one is ever a stranger to this non-ideological, caring, international rock star.
What a fascinating youth compelled Barack Obama, our own young “friend of all the world,” to overcome petty divisions and partisan distractions, offer leadership and service to his own nation, and bring the world together to resolve our most pressing common global problems—the ravages of disease, injustice, hopelessness, hunger, greed, environmental degradation, natural disasters, ignorance, addiction, prejudice, nuclear proliferation, crime, poverty, war, terrorism, and violence itself.
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