Dear President Obama: The Confidence of the People

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

President Barack Obama in front of a UN Flag

President Barack Obama in front of a UN Flag

Dear President Obama,

First, I must congratulate you on becoming the first sitting US President in 90 years to win the Nobel Peace Prize, adding onto an already incredible resume that for any man, much less a Black man in America, should be lauded for. Despite the controversy surrounding the award, the idea that such a highly esteemed foreign committee of men and women would recognize your agenda as the agenda to follow speaks volumes about the power you’ve demonstrated. It’s also important that we’ve had a president who’s helped empower liberals and the like to take on a more active role in their communities and in their government … even if it’s in opposition to your plans.

That’s where people like me come in. While I’ve silently and not-so-silently cheered you on as a great example of a man, and even as a politician, I also have so many concerns about the direction (or lack thereof) that this country has headed in, I just have to put things out there. For instance, in the first week of school, I showed the video of you giving a speech to school children about the importance of education and for America’s kids to do well in school. I appreciated the gesture, as these sorts of open demonstrations of care rarely happened over the last decade or so. Then, I’m also nagged by the idea that Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, as your representative for the top education chair in the country and thus, an extension of you, wants to keep pushing a reform agenda that corporatizes our public schools and asks already-cash-strapped states to develop reforms that reflect this more corporate view of public education … or else.

Then, there’s the issue with health care. As a teacher, I don’t have to worry about health care, as it comes with the job. I’m fortunately one of the people who is not directly affected by whether this bill passes or not, but as someone who has too many students whose moms have to work from 3pm – 11pm, whose dads see the inside of their taxis or the machines they work with more than their families. This isn’t just limited to my kids. I’m a man whose friends always have that scare from watching CNBC when their parent company’s stock drops or when the next merger may or may not happen, whose neighbors scratch at broken promises of the lottery and (un)employment agencies at the hopes of striking it rich, even for a few hours a day. In this capitalist society, I’ve been on the side of the triangle where there’s a much smaller chance of winning.

And that’s where I think so many of us who believe in you have our quandaries. What’s the direction that this country’s going? Why do we have conflicting reports about the state of every and anything regarding you, even as they keep changing, even from your own people? I’m not saying I’m in full agreement of everything you do, but the ambiguity and lack of affirmation surrounding you can lead many of us who voted / campaigned / spread the word / wrote songs, lyrics, blogs / defended / felt / heard / cried / held you down to mistrust you. While a relatively small faction of  I know that it’s only been 9 months, and really, I hated to write this knowing how difficult it is to eradicate inefficiency in an organization like a national government, especially one of this magnitude.

Even still, much like the voice you used to get yourself elected, we too must lift our voices. As Paulo Freire, another educator, once said, “The trust of the people in the leaders reflects the confidence of the leaders in the people.”



Jose Vilson, who has an audacity to hope, too …