He’s a professed Christian who came to his faith after years of searching and questioning. He is a husband who recently celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary with the only woman to whom he has ever been married. He is a loving father of two adorable daughters. He is an intellectual who seeks pragmatic solutions to our most pressing problems. He is an idealist who sticks to his principles. He is an orator, who with his words and personal story, have inspired millions. And he is a patriot who sees us not as a collection of red states and blue states, but as the United States of America.
Yet many still despise President Barack Obama.
While the president has not been perfect in his first four years in office, the level of vitriol spewed toward him does not sync with his general performance. For example, critics have claimed that the president has ruined our economy. The data shows though that while he inherited an economy losing 800,000 jobs per month, we’ve now had 32 consecutive months of private-sector job growth.
Critics claim that the president is responsible for the growth in our national debt. The data though shows our current debt is mostly due to the tax and spend policies of the president’s predecessors coupled with the severe 2008 financial crisis. As the economy has improved, the budget deficit has shrunk.
Critics claim that the president has raised taxes on middle-class families. Yet the data shows that taxes have fallen for 95 percent of Americans. Furthermore, total tax collections as a percentage of the economy are at their lowest level in 50 years.
Critics claim that the president has orchestrated a federal takeover of health care when in reality more individuals will now have more power to make better decisions for their own health care needs. Critics claim that the health care reform is unaffordable, but the Congressional Budget Office notes that the Affordable Care Act actually will reduce the deficit and the number of uninsured.
Critics claim that President Obama is a socialist, despite the fact that total government employment has fallen on his watch — the only president since World War II under which this has happened.
Critics claim that the president wanted to kill all our grandparents with imaginary death panels. Critics claim that the president embarked on an imaginary apology tour throughout the world. Critics claim that the president was born in Kenya, despite the fact that his Hawaiian birth certificate is anything but imaginary.
To some of the president’s supporters, the anger vented at this president smacks of racism. However, saying that racism is the sole reason for all the hostility we’ve seen ignores the number of kind, tolerant and compassionate people who have made some of these outrageous claims. Although, completely dismissing the idea that racism plays some part for some of the president’s opponents, ignores the troubling fact that bigotry and racism still exist in modern America.
I’ll leave it to others to explain why this irrational hatred for Barack Obama persists. What’s clear to me though, is that we are a better people than we have shown these past few years.
But now, after another historic election, we have an opportunity to change. We have the chance now to set aside our differences, to come together and solve our most pressing problems. This does not mean we must agree on everything. Some disagreement is healthy for our democracy. It is good for us to have a healthy debate, to voice our opinions and promote our principles. But too often these last few years we’ve also forgotten to listen, to respect and to care for those that think and act differently than we do.
We’ve forgotten that America works best, when Americans work together.
With unemployment still too high, with a national debt still too cumbersome, with intolerance still too rampant, with a climate still changing and with a world still too dangerous, we are clearly in the midst of some trying times. I still believe though, that our nation’s best days still lie ahead of us. But we must recognize that the only way we can reach our potential, to solve our problems, and to attain those better days, is by embracing the idea that we need everyone pushing in the same direction — forward — together.
MICKEY HEPNER is the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma. Hepner serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for The Oklahoma Academy.