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Jun-04-2011 21:02printcomments

Of, by and for the people

The ideals of Lincoln's of, by and for the people and the unfulfilled promises of Obama have lessons to be learned.

(MANAMA, Bahrain) - One of the most interesting stories in the history of the United States involved Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

President Lincoln had a minor role in dedicating a cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for the burial of those who had died for the union in the American Civil War.

As is true of many wars, Lincoln had lost popularity as a result of the loss of lives. He was also given a short time to prepare his dedication speech.

After a two-hour oration by Edward Everett, Lincoln's address took only a few minutes devoted to maintaining support for the war.

Lincoln's moving address was completed in ten powerful sentences beginning with:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

He then noted briefly their purpose in being there "to ... dedicate ...a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live."

Lincoln summed up his position by reminding his audience of "...the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."

His conclusion: “--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

President Barack Obama's presidential ideal has been Abraham Lincoln, the man who made famous the phrase "Of the people, by the people, for the people".

One can see why the author of that captivating rubric for a democracy would have endless appeal to Obama, a natural icon "of the people".

Obama is one of the few presidents not from the highest stratosphere of an elite oligarchy, but descendant from ordinary people.

"By the people" informed much of Obama's rhetoric that stimulated so many people to vote for him. The appeal of his arguments and promises for change earned him the presidency.

Unfortunately, once he got into office, he no longer reflected a government "by the people". The government, controlled by corporate barons, lobbies and Wall Street, devoured Obama.

Equally pernicious, Obama totally reneged on his promise of change to a government for the people.

Stranger than fiction Order Now

The bailouts of his early days in office did not benefit the people. Help for home owners whose mortgages were being foreclosed would have. Instead the help went to the financial institutions of Wall Street to save them.

The ideals of Lincoln's of, by and for the people and the unfulfilled promises of Obama have lessons to be learned.

These are the ideals of democracy. The ideals don't become reality simply by stating them in a speech or by marching with flags and slogans in a demonstration.

They don't become reality through protests or speeches promising change. As English journalist and novelist Arnold Bennett said, "Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."

America still hasn't achieved the democracy that Abe Lincoln's words revered or that Obama's campaign hopes nourished.

One of America's leading senators, J. William Fulbright, said "It's unnatural and unhealthy for a nation to be engaged in global crusades for some principle or idea while neglecting the needs of its own people."

Instead of exerting pressure on others for democracies, America needs to focus on improving its own.


Dr. Paul Balles has lived and worked in the Middle East for 40 years - first as an English professor (Universities of Kuwait and Bahrain), and for the past ten years as a writer, editor and editorial consultant. He's had more than 350 articles published, focusing on companies, personality profiles, entrpreneurs, women achievers, journalists and the media, the Middle East, American politics, the Internet and the Web, consumer reports, Arabs, diplomats, dining out and travel.

He writes a weekly op-ed column for the Gulf Daily News (English) and Akbar Al Khaleej (Arabic). He has also edited seven websites, including,
Also see: Israel and US Apologists Rattled by UN Report on War Crimes in Gaza - By: Paul J. Balles

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Colli June 5, 2011 11:46 am (Pacific time)

Dr. Balles: Thank you for writing this article for it truly tells it like it is. It almost seems that politicians, like world travelers, must be vaccinated to prepare for their journey. Where world travelers are vaccinated for things such as Typhus, Small Pox, and such horrible diseases, politicians are vaccinated soon after taking office with a virus that instills greed and a tendency to become corrupt. Promises made prior to taking office quickly become meaningless and the individuals who helped gain the office are viewed only as pawns in a game. Ideals once held in high esteem are nothing more than words bantered about to give the impression of patriotism and compassion. President Obama is far from the first U.S. politician to succumb to the pressure exerted by those in the world who hold the purse strings and wield the power that corrupts. Why do you believe so many fight so hard for a chance to ride the horse named "Power" to the trough of Greed? Colli

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.