Read Paul's bio and previous columns
November 10, 2008
Even Before Obama, I
Already Knew That I Could
Apparently, to almost every member of the media, the election of a
thoroughly unaccomplished man to the presidency is a definition of the
American dream for the sole reason that he is half black. Even President
Bush has said that Barack Obama’s election is a “triumph of the American
The unfortunate truth, however, is that Obama’s election is a tremendous
devaluation of the American Dream. It teaches us that the recipe for
success is not achievement, but cunning. Yet somehow, everyone has
fallen victim to the conventional wisdom that “we now know we can
Sherri Shepherd, a black co-host of the TV show The View,
summarized the refrain we have heard hundreds of times since November 4:
“We’ve always been people of color. We’ve always had these limitations
on us . . . And so to look at my son and say no limitations on you . . .
to look at my baby and go, you don’t have to have limitations . . .”
Were there really limitations on what her son could do? This dramatic
statement is, after all, coming from an immensely successful woman who
has better name recognition than north of 99.99 percent of the U.S.
population, and a woman who has seen blacks become entertainers, CEOs,
astronauts, governors, senators, two successive secretaries of state –
everything but presidents (which, as seen in at least the last four
elections, is now apparently off-limits to old white men with war
Did Americans, including the poor and minorities, sincerely believe that
success was limited by anything other than their own initiative? Did we
Americans truly need Obama’s election to finally start believing that we
could be anything we wanted to be? Did we not hope, did we not think
that “we can,” before Obama told us that we should?
was born into the Lebanese civil war, both chronologically and
geographically. My earliest memories are those of hiding in a makeshift
bunker, huddling to pray with my family and neighbors, while a barrage
of fire rained down outside. My other memories are those of constantly
hearing gunfire while in school, and of speeding on more than one
occasion toward a ship that would take refugees to the nearby island of
Cyprus when the burden became just too much to bear.
lived in a country ruled by neighboring Syria, with an unstable society
and an economy in tatters, until my parents made the best decision of
their lives – bringing my sisters and me to America. I began learning my
third language, English, in eighth grade, and I had far from mastered it
through much of high school. I was mocked by some in high school for not
being American enough, and by many in college for not being
anti-American enough. Two days after the 9/11 attacks, and only a few
miles from the Pentagon, one of my teachers told me that I bore an
uncanny resemblance to Mohammed Atta.
Let’s just say that I didn’t start life with a big advantage. Far from
Yet not for one second did I believe that I faced limitations other than
my own initiative. Had I stayed in Lebanon, or gone to Africa, South
America or even Europe, I probably would have had overwhelming obstacles
beyond my control. But not in America. Not in the one country that
provides you with equality of opportunity. And I didn’t need some
politician to give me self-esteem or hope. I already knew I could.
Though all of my high school courses were in a language that I had just
begun to learn, I didn’t complain. I worked hard and reached straight
As. I jumped into student council and other extracurriculars. I got into
Cornell University – no one had proofread my application, because no one
in my family could improve on my English. While Ivy League liberals
spent four years trying to convince me that racist conservatives will
always discriminate against Arabs like me, these “racist conservatives”
made me Chairman of the College Republicans, president of the campus
pro-life organization and president of Cornell’s conservative
publication – a trifecta no one else had ever achieved.
then got myself into a top-tier law school. I became one of the
country’s – and world’s – youngest syndicated and published columnists,
in a language that I was still learning the basics of through my teens.
far I’ve made it from Middle-Eastern bunker to American attorney and
nationally syndicated columnist, and my ambitions are far greater still.
Not bad – and it was all possible even before The One came along to tell
me that “I can”!
The fact is, I didn’t need Obama to tell me that I could do anything – I
was doing just fine without him. Sherri Shepherd was doing just fine
without him. So were Oprah, Michelle Malkin, Condoleezza Rice, Michael
Steele, Elaine Chao, Clarence Thomas and every other minority who has
taken initiative and succeeded in life. The only limitation I have is an
arbitrary constitutional obstacle preventing foreign-born citizens from
becoming president – and not even The One’s election has changed that.
Obama’s election hasn’t told us anything we didn’t already know. It
hasn’t strengthened the American dream. In fact, it trashed it.
All Obama’s election has taught me is that I could develop political
support through ties with felons, terrorists and radicals who will raise
funds for my campaigns, that I could win those campaigns by eliminating
my opponents’ names from the ballot or by relying on their sex scandals,
avoid any criticism by voting “present” on important legislation, base
my policy positions on polls, make good speeches, tell people what they
want to hear and be thoroughly unaccomplished – and that I then could
What a slap in the face to the American Dream, and to those minorities
with a record of meaningful successes that have earned them their
current positions. What an insult to the American Dream, a beautiful,
powerful idea that tells us we can attain a goal as long as we work
hard, achieve real successes and make tangible accomplishments that earn
us that goal.
Obama may be above average all-around, but how has he done what is
necessary to make him presidential material? How has Obama deserved the
most powerful position in the world? What has Obama accomplished other
than get repeatedly elected? And I’m sorry, Obama soldiers, but “beating
the Clinton Machine” will never count as a qualification for the
This fluke of an election has taught us the wrong lessons about how to
achieve our aspirations. Don’t cheapen the American Dream by assigning
it to Obama’s unfortunate election.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column # PI139.
permission to publish here.