On October 14, I was visiting a friend of mine when he showed me this YouTube footage of a man named Felix Baumgartner. Felix Baumgartner is a professional daredevil who took a “space pod” (flown by a giant balloon) up into space and then decided to take a supersonic jump from that high altitude all the way down to earth.
The jump was at an estimated 120,000 feet above the planet, high into the stratosphere.
As my friend played the video of the jump for me, we were both glued to the screen:
The video began, rather ominously, with a haunting image of a man in a space suit, sitting in a small pod, a cold and indifferent black space as his backdrop. At first, the man was shown perched in his pod, staring into an abyss below him. Out of this abyss emerged a colossal, shadowy blue giant that stared menacingly up at him, as if daring him to take the leap.
But that shadowy blue sphere was no giant: it was the earth itself, and the man was staring into every person’s worst nightmare: he was hovering 120,000 feet above the earth with absolutely nothing to support him.
As my friend and I watched this momentous event unfold, the man did the inconceivable: he climbed out of the space pod and jumped—flinging himself rapidly down into the abyss, down toward the colossal, shadowy, blue sphere below.
In the next few frames, the video displayed a tiny speck, barely resembling a man. That speck was tumbling, twirling, falling, and rocketing to the earth at lightning fast speeds.
For the next few minutes, my friend and I watched as this white spec made its way through the earth’s atmosphere and back towards the earth.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the man’s fall was disrupted by a parachute that split out of his back. The parachute instantly slowed down the man’s trajectory.
As I watched, I let out a brief sigh of relief–but my anxiety was still present. The man still hadn’t landed yet; and, for several more minutes, my friend and I kept wondering how far off the ground he was. It was never clear how close the man was to the ground–up until a moment before he finally stuck the landing.
At last, the man had ended his supersonic jump from space by landing safely on the earth’s surface, on his feet no less.
For several days afterward, the country seemed all abuzz over this daredevil’s harrowing stunt. It was as if we were all thrilled to discover that there were still human beings alive who were courageous enough to pull off such tremendous feats.
But no sooner had the country been enchanted by this intergalactic daredevil sideshow, before we were all dragged back into the muck that is the current presidential election. Now, suddenly, America was forced to recall a different kind of supersonic free-fall.
America’s Supersonic Free-fall
Four years ago was a terrifying time in American history.
The country was then led by a man who, very much like Felix the Daredevil, had led us up high into the stratosphere–and had us stuck there, staring down into a horrifying, shadowy abyss. America’s then leader was a man who openly and bluntly ruled over only half of the country. He didn’t even try to be bipartisan—he actively tried to be as bitterly and cynically partisan and divisive as possible. That leader openly and proudly promoted an amendment that would insert discrimination into the constitution. That leader led us into an unnecessary war on false pretenses, without a way to pay for it—raising our national debt to stratospheric levels. That leader led a pitiful and shockingly inadequate response to one of the worst national disastrous in U.S. history. That leader’s diplomatic policies angered most of the world and turned the international community against us, until it seemed as if there were not many countries left who didn’t hate America. That leader helped remove tough regulations so that Wall Street’s greed could run rampant. That leader removed his focus from the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th and instead put all of our military’s energy on a war nobody wanted, and on a country that never attacked us.
Finally, as if all of this wasn’t enough, right before he left, that leader left us with one of the biggest economic upheavals in history. True, the crisis itself cannot be blamed on him entirely, but for eight years it seemed as if President Bush’s missteps had tumbled every domino that had ever been erected by his predecessors—so that by the time the crisis hit, it was as if this was the last domino that needed to be toppled before a switch activated the trick mechanism that sent us free-falling down toward the abyss–the very abyss we had been staring down into for the past 8 years.
This was the dire picture facing us four years ago.
But, today, we are not where we were four years ago.
After the supersonic free-fall of 2008, President Obama activated the “parachute” in order to save us from our inevitable demise: that “parachute” was the stimulus and the bailout that saved the entire U.S. auto industry.
Today’s leader is one that, despite an opposition party openly and outspokenly bent on his failure, managed to pass healthcare reform, a bill to regulate the banks and Wall Street, the repeal of a discriminatory policy against gay men and women in the military, a bill that forces companies to give women equal pay for equal work, and more.
Today’s leader is one who has been so successful in foreign policy that his current political opponent could only hope to co-opt this foreign policy in order to look half as presidential as his opponent.
Today’s leader is one who ended the War In Iraq (as he promised) refocused the military’s might on the war in Afghanistan (as he promised) and removed the evil mastermind behind the attacks of September 11 (as he promised). He also has led the near decimation of Al Qaeda and has successfully prevented another terrorist attack from striking U.S. soil. Finally, he is bringing the longest war in American history to an end.
A recent poll suggests that nearly every country in the world (except Pakistan) overwhelmingly supports our current president’s re-election—which should be clear sign to us that the era in which the entire world was united in hatred against the U.S. is now over.
Today’s leader is steering a country that is seeing job growth (instead of job loss), the housing market returning, stocks rising again, and a growing sense of optimism that the fate of this nation is finally turning around for the better.
We, as a country, are finally seeing ground. after our supersonic free fall four years ago. For the first time in a while, we see the potential to stick a landing, and fall on our feet. We may not know how far above the earth we are at the moment, we may not know how long it will take us to get there, but we have been guided, so far, by a great leader who has given us a real shot at full recovery.
No, today’s leader is no superman. He is not perfect. He has had his defects, his missteps, and his failures.
But when I casted my vote for President Obama four years ago, I knew I was not electing a messiah or a superhero. I was electing a man.
What Makes A Great Leader?
I supported Obama way before it was the “cool” thing to do to, and I still support him today, even though it is not the “cool” thing to do anymore (as if the decision to support the leader of our country was only a matter of style, and not a matter of substance and character).
In truth, I am just as enthused and elated to support The President as ever. In fact, I am even more so, because he has proven to me that he is an exceptional leader in extraordinary times.
A great leader is no superhuman; he’s a regular human who can withstand incredibly odds.
I believe that Barack Obama is that kind of great leader; and this coming election, I proudly and, yes, enthusiastically, plan on voting for him again.
This is a monumental election, and it seems to me that it is a choice between a guy who wants to withdraw our parachute and take away our safety net just as we are about to stick a landing, or the man who has proven himself to be a great leader, and who is in the process of guiding us back to earth, landing us on our feet, and thrilling us with the idea that such a harrowing stunt could still be accomplished in this day and age.
much “Vote on November 6,”
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