Barack Obama on Losing

Barack Obama, Jr., the 44th president-elect of the United States of America, and the third president to come from Illinois, according to CNN, won by a land slide 364 electoral votes compared to his rival, Senator John McCain, 164.

President Barack Obama has not won all his political races. He has his share of losing. After finishing two terms in Illinois legislature, he ran for a congressional seat in the 2000 national elections by challenging a sitting Democratic incumbent, Bobby Rush. In his second book “The Audacity of Hope” published in 2006, he writes about that singular experience: “it was an ill-considered race, and I lost badly—the sort of drubbing that awakens you to the fact that life is not obliged to work out as you’d planned.” He admitted that for the first time in his career, he envied young politicians who succeeded where he had failed, moving into higher offices, getting more things done. “I began to harbor doubts about the paths I have chosen; I began feeling the way I imagine an actor or athlete must feel when, after years of commitment to a particular dream, after years of waiting tables between auditions or scratching out hits in the minor leagues, he realizes tat he’s gone just about as far as talent or fortune will take him. The dream will not happen, and he now faces the choice of accepting this fact like a grown-up and moving on to more sensible pursuits, or refusing the truth and ending up bitter, quarrelsome, and slightly pathetic.”

He said halfway into the campaign, he knew he was going to lose. “Each morning from that point forward I awoke with a vague sense of dread, realizing that I would have to spend the day smiling and shaking hands and pretending that everything was going according to plan.”

He returns to that experience later in the book and what he says may also describe what Senator John McCain is undergoing through now. President Obama writes, “there’s the cheerful concession speech you have to make…, the brave face you put on as you comfort staff and supporters, the thank-you calls to those who helped… You perform these tasks as best you can, and yet no matter how much you tell yourself differently—no matter how convincingly you attribute the loss to bad timing or bad luck or lack of money—its impossible not to feel at some level as if you have been personally repudiated by the entire community, that you don’t quite have what it takes, and that everywhere you go the word ‘loser’ is flashing though people’s minds. They’re the sorts of feelings that most people haven’t experienced since high school, when the girl you’d been pining over dismissed you with a joke in front of her friends, or you missed a pair of free throws with the big game on the line—the kinds of feelings that most adults wisely organize their lives to avoid.”

It is a comforting feeling that even a great man like Barack is also defeated. It is hard to imagine just a decade ago when he started in politics, this unknown man would talk to anyone who would listen, went to block club meetings and church socials, beauty shops and barbershops. “If two guys were standing on a corner, I would cross the street to hand them campaign literature…”

Today, everyone around the world knows his name, has heard him deliver eloquent and inspiring speeches of hope and promise of change, and is excited of the fact that indeed, America has elected its first black president.

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