The Commonwealth Comment

Thursday, January 29, 2009

America, The Beautiful

Last week I saw America.

The 6:40AM train took me from the luxury brownstones of Boston to the run down, boarded up duplexes of Baltimore. I must say I was surprised and even saddened to see people in the United States living in these conditions. Yet, after 4 days at my destination (Washington, DC) my hope and faith in my country was restored.

I traveled to the nation's capital with a group of Emerson journalism students to cover the Inauguration of Barack Obama. We all bonded through the long hours and freezing cold temperatures on the streets of DC with little food and even less sleep.

I stood on the National Mall on the frigid Inaugural morning by the Washington Monument with my 2 friends and colleagues Ryan and Valeria. We were joined by another 2 million people who had come from miles around and from all walks of life to witness history in person. Everyone shared in the same hopeful spirit of the day. We all knew things were going to be better, that change had indeed come to America.

The crowds were peaceful. Over 2 million people had flooded the city and there was not a single arrest! How remarkable to think that a nation focused on a common goal can achieve such a feat. This is what I see in America's future: I see cooperation between different people striving to help one another succeed. I see average citizens setting their political differences aside to help move America forward. I can only hope our political leaders can put aside childish things and see the renewed optimism and hope the American people still hold for their country.

On my way home to Boston on the 7:25AM train (which is another story in and of itself) I felt better knowing that I had truly seen America that week.

"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage." - President Barack Obama


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I understand there is a separation of church and state, and I respect the choice of some people to not believe in any religion. But I do have an issue with one vocal atheist trying to dictate what President-elect Obama can or cannot say during his Inauguration.

Michael Newdow is an atheist from California who is suing Chief Justice John Roberts in federal court in an attempt to block Obama from saying "so help me God," after he takes the oath of office. Newdow is not new to this battle. He lost similar cases during President George W. Bush's inaugurations, and he also lost a Supreme Court case to ban the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

I have serious issue with Mr. Newdow trying to prevent Barack Obama or any president from saying these words. It is a personal moment in their lives that should not be dictated by the public. Thankfully the Justice Department and attorney generals from all 50 states have asked for this lawsuit out.

The oath reads:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

It is historical fact that George Washington added "so help me God," after he was sworn in, and it has been the choice of his successors to add the phrase. It is not written in the oath and therefore Mr. Newdow has no case...unless he wants to restrict the President-elect's freedom of speech.

Throw this lawsuit out, or so help me God!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Judging George

When Barack Obama swears to uphold the Constitution at noon next Tuesday history will be made in more than one way. Obama will become the nation's first African American president, and George W. Bush, after 8 long years will no longer be Commander-in-Chief. But, it remains to be seen how history will judge the 43rd president.

In many ways George W. is the reason I decided upon a career in journalism. I saw the country's policies shifting and America changing as I'd never seen before.

In 2000, when I was on the 8th grade, Bush was elected President of the United States of America thanks to a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court. The court's bizarre vote discounted hundreds of thousands of votes in Florida. In an even odder twist, the court stated their decision would apply on to Bush v. Gore and would not hold as precedent for any future cases.

Less than a year later, as I was just starting high school, the world stood still as the United States was attacked. I remember hearing about the World Trade Center at the end of my biology class, and then in my next period (choir) we all crowded around the television in room 104 and watched as the towers collapsed. The U.S. stood as one nation, and the War on Terror had officially started.

In 2003 I sat in my World History II class watching a statue of Saddam Hussein topple from its pedestal. Almost 6 years and 4,000 U.S. soldiers later, the war rages on as democracy struggles to take root in Iraq.

Shortly after my graduation in 2005 I watched in horror as a major city in the United States of America drowned under the waters of hurricane Katrina, and devastated the Gulf coast.

These are just some of the changes we have all witnessed in the last 8 years. As I watched these events unfold I found myself asking: "What are we doing? Where's the accountability?!"

That's why I chose journalism. To hold those who make the decisions accountable to those who elected them.

So, President Bush does not receive high marks in the history book of my personal recollection, and ultimately I think how ordinary Americans were affected by his presidency is a far more vital piece to judging his administration than any historian's research.

Going off of the election results from last November, it would seem as though the American people have made up their minds as well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Joe the Foreign Correspondent

So, it appears as though our friend Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher is stretching his 15 minutes of fame a little longer than any of us thought possible. As we speak, Joe is reporting from Israel as a foreign war correspondent for the conservative media outlet, Pajamas Media.

But while Joe has taken up the Israeli cause to help combat slanted, elitist, and apparently anti-Israel journalism in the U.S. he reportedly told a group of journalists he believes they shouldn't be allowed to report on wars or on anything for that matter.

“I think media should be abolished from, you know, reporting,” he said. “You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, ‘well, look at this atrocity,’ well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.”

For such a freedom loving American, Joe certainly has an un-American stance when it comes to freedom of the press. I guess he overlooked that amendment to the Constitution. What number was it? Oh, yea the first one!

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Joe, if I may be so bold as to apply your own words to your new found career in "journalism"...

You don't know the whole story behind it and have no business in it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The New New Deal?

President-elect Barack Obama doesn't take the oath of office for another week, but he is already stressing the need for a strong economic stimulus plan. He says his proposal could create and save anywhere between 3 to 4 million jobs, but at a tremendous cost to the American taxpayers; almost $1,000,000,000,000.

History shows that the original New Deal, which was implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt helped turn the economy of the 1930's around, but it wasn't until World War II that the United States' economy was back to pre-depression levels. So, will Obama's plan to invest in the nation's infrastructure be enough?

Like most students graduating in May I am uncertain of what the job market will look like, especially in the journalism industry. We are all hoping that Obama's stimulus pays off and gets the economy back on track, so we don't wind up moving back into our high school bedrooms under our parents' roofs.

It is at this time that I'm reminded of words from the founder of the New Deal:

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." - FDR

One Week Left

I've been selected to cover the 56th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC on January 20th with a group of other journalism students from Emerson. It should be the experience of a lifetime, especially for a political junkie like myself. We will be under the supervision of former ABC World News anchor Carole Simpson.

We will be on the rails next Sunday (6:40 am). We'll be scattered around the city and the surrounding neighborhoods through the 22nd. I'll be staying in Arlington, VA with the brother of one of the other students going.

Being an eyewitness to the historic swearing in of Barack Obama is going to be very exciting. I think it will stir a great deal of emotion, patriotism and hope in myself and in all of those crammed onto the National Mall. It will undoubtedly be one of those rare moments in history where people will remember exactly where they were and what they were doing. But unlike those earlier events, most of which were negative (Pearl Harbor, JFK's assassination, 9/11) this one day will mark a positive change in our society. A moment that will move us all closer to a more perfect Union.