Essay winners should be commended

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, April 8, 2009

“A democratic form of government, a democratic way of life…presupposes also an education for personal responsibility that is too often neglected.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Some time has passed since Eleanor shared this. However, I believe it may still hold true. Or maybe this is changing with the help of the Obama administration. According to a recent article from Germany, we’re told “the measures undertaken in Washington — including the beginning of the process of closing the prison at Guantanamo, the revocation of the licenses to torture in terrorism cases, and last week’s announcement that America will seek a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council” is certainly to his credit, and it’s about time.

I think Obama’s willingness to seek a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council will help bring more attention to Austin’s Human Rights Commission that has served the community for years.

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Every year the Austin Human Rights Commission sponsors a writing opportunity for Austin’s seventh and eighth grade students from Ellis and Pacelli. These entries eventually end up in the hands of the Austin Writer’s Group that meets weekly at the Austin Public Library where recently they spent two hours deciding the first, second and third place winners.

This year was an exception. Ms. Lise Mittag’s seventh grade language arts class at Ellis wrapped up the first, second and third place winners. There were 75 entries submitted.

Third place went to Kristen Carlson who wrote on Abortion: A Human Rights Issue. Second place went to Jack Kepen who wrote on Guantanamo Bay Detainees and the first place winner went to Caitlin Haugland’s Abuse to the Elderly.

If you know of these students personally I suggest you get in touch with them. Perhaps in the future they will serve on the Human Rights Commission somewhere.

Not being an advocate of television, I followed what I found written regarding Obama’s foray onto European soil — his second time in England where an op-ed contributor of the New York Times tells us: “As the president stepped up to 10 Downing Street, he leant over, made eye contact, said something courteous, and shook the hand of the police officer standing guard… No one has ever shaken the hand of the policeman before, and like everyone else who has his palm touched by Barack Obama, he was visibly transported and briefly forgot himself.”

The policeman then offered his hand to Gordon Brown, the prime minister, who ignored him.

A. A. Gill writes: “Apparently, the Obamas searched every cupboard and closet in Downing Street to personally thank all the servants for looking after them.   That’s, classlessy classy.”  He added: “Mr. Obama is the only popular politician left in the world. He would win an election in any one of the G-20 countries, and his fellow world leaders will do anything to take home a touch of that reflective popularity.”

Our son recognized this in the early stages of Obama’s campaign. He and his friends had their picture taken with Obama at the Target Center in February of ‘08, and then saw him again at the Xcel Center in June of ‘08 and again at a college in Des Moines.  If I remember correctly, they were drafted to help assign seats at one of the Obama events in the cities and had the picture taken. Skyler tells me he never got to see the pictures.

Maureen Dowd, another columnist reported on Obama, saying: “His hand was too weak going in, and there was too much hostility toward America, thanks to W.’s blunders, and Cheney’s bullying. But he showed a psychological finesse that has been missing from American leadership for a long time.”

I think most of us could agree with this.

Dowd went on to say Obama is like a good shrink, he listens. Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian president said: “It’s easy to talk to him, and he can listen.” He called Obama, “My new comrade.”

That’s unlike our previous president who brought Vladimir Putin to the Bush family fishing hole years ago. Wasn’t it then that “W” saw something special in Putin’s soul or heart that turned out to be somewhat mistaken.

Possibly there’s a link Obama makes with the young and the old, perhaps Ms Mittag, the language arts teacher at Ellis, and the students she works with.

They too were able to express themselves in ways that Jacob Kempen might not have been able to with the last administration.

Maybe responsibility is coming back?