Cliff Gardner

Friday, October 09, 2009

Why President Obama won

My greatest political hero, the man I admire most in history, is Andrei Sakharov. If you don't know who he is, Sakharov was a hero of the Soviet Union, the man who was primarily responsible for bringing nuclear weapons to Russia, who then became one of the biggest opponents of their use, leading the perestroika and glasnost movements that ultimately brought down the USSR after his death. He spent almost three decades in exile where he and his wife Yelena were harassed, threatened and intimidated daily by KGB agents.

But, right before he was exiled, Sakharov went on vacation to Crimea, not far from where my site was in Ukraine. While on the beach with his family, a man came up to Andrei and shook his hand, telling him that he was proud to be a Soviet man like him and that he agreed with a letter Sakharov had signed (along with many other concerned scientists) against the use of nuclear weapons.

Two weeks later, that same man who had embraced Sakharov on the beach voted, along with the rest of the Central Committee, so send the Sakharov's to Siberia indefinitely. Yelena was furious when she found out, screaming and throwing things, while Sakharov just sat in his kitchen quietly. Finally his wife yelled at him, "WHY AREN'T YOU ANGRY? This man betrayed you! Don't you hate him?" Sakharov replied, "I'm not angry...I'm thinking about it."

The easiest thing in the world to do is react to something with emotion, to punch back. It feels good, and sometimes people will love you on for it. But, the job of statesman, of true leaders, is not to react, but to think. To consider.

I believe Barack Obama has shown a willingness and ability to do that, highlighting not only his tremendous potential for greatness, but also why he won the Nobel Prize today. Do I have my frustrations with his administration? Absolutely. Would I vote for him again? Yes--because I think it's what Andei Sakharov would do.