President Obama: The 7 Principles of Kwanzaa as a Governing Philosophy

November 7, 2012

Now that the President Obama has been re-elected for a second term, the difficult task of governing begins again. The 7 Principles presents one of the best frameworks for measuring how successful Obama will be, and determining the fidelity to the promises made and kept by Obama. Viewed through these principles then, here is a look at what is possible and what can be achieved in a second Obama term.

Unity/Umoja. Unquestionably, America is a divided nation. The political separation of the democrats and republicans mask the real divide of: race, class, gender and sexual orientation. The Kwanzaa principle of Umoja encourages Obama to address these divides, not just among the political class in Washington D.C., but more importantly among the American populace. He must continue to remind Americans of what he said last night: “We are more than a collection of red states and blue states; we are the United States of America.” While rhetoric along will not bring about harmonious relationships, it is, however, the starting point. What we say to each other and what we call each other is how we see and treat each other. Any conversation which denigrates and disrespects the dignity and humanity of any group of people must be condemned.

Self-Determination/Kujichagulia: America has not a singular tradition, but a dual one: one progressive and one regressive. African Americans have a rich history and tradition of struggle. Joined with other progressive struggles, including women and other people of color, these struggles have moved America in the direction of a “more perfect union.” In moving forward, Obama must build upon the African American tradition of struggle which has so often set the moral and progressive agenda for America.

Collective Work and Responsibility/Ujima: Obama must continue to be guided by his assertion that “We are all in this together. The Kwanzaa principle of Ujima suggest that: For America to sustain itself as a viable society, and union, Americans across the ideological, racial, class, gender, and sexual orientation divides must recognize that their own well-being is derived from well-being of other fellow Americans, that their lives are bound together, and that the success of any one of their lives both individually and collectively is an aspect of and dependent on the well-being or others who are not in their group.  President Obama must use his bully pulpit to trumpet this theme.

Cooperative Economic/Ujamaa: Inequality is not just campaign fodder, but a reality that robs the dignity of those who toil to “just get by” and for those who have not hopes or aspiration for act upon their human potential. The Kwanzaa principle Ujamaa is anchored in the belief that wealth should be shared, that no one single person or group created wealth on their own, that it is in interest of the common good that wealth is shared.

Purpose/Nia: Just as individual must have and lead a purposeful life, so must a nation. Obama correctly advanced the belief that America’s purpose is to engender for its citizens the conditions and opportunity for them to live with dignity and to reach their highest potential. Moreover, he emphasized that no good society can come about with out the participation, inclusive of decent work and a living wage for all of its citizens, and even for those who desired to be citizens. President Obama must continue to articulate this enlarged vision and purpose of America, and in that way the true work of nation building will be realized. He put it best in his victory speech: “We are grater than the sums of our individual ambitions.”

Creativity/Kuumba: The 2012 presidential election highlighted the nostalgia of one candidate for an America of the past and progressive vision of the other candidate for moving America toward a more perfect union i.e., continually making America a better place for everyone.  The definition and meaning of a better America is embodied more recently in the call for ending inequality and the historical struggle expressed by Martin Lither King’s “beloved community.” The ultimate aim of SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), King stated was to “foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood [and sisterhood] is a reality. . . . Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.” King’s was a vision of a completely integrated society, a community of love and justice wherein brotherhood and sisterhood would be an actuality in all of social life.  Obama’s endorsement of the beloved community would in fact not only make America a better place to live, but equally important, be the manifestation of the Kwanzaa principle, Umoja.

Faith/Imani: Obama’s re-election was, to be sure, a reaffirmation of hope. The key to the realization of the change which President Obama has championed is to make Americans more hopeful. His general appeal is that he makes everyday American people feel more hopeful. The Kwanzaa principle Imani is fundamental to sustaining that hope. The first term of President Barack Obama was replete with disappointment. Yet, he was ground in faith. During his second term he will need even greater faith and can draw inspiration from James Weldon Johnson’s anthem, Life Every Voice and Sing:

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

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