Losing our Dads, Gaining a Son

In July 2005, there were familiar and surprising faces that came to my dad’s funeral to pay their respects. One of the most familiar was my childhood friend Don Jr., who when coming down the aisle, gave me that pained yet warm “I am here for you” look. His presence was soothing on that most difficult day. At the time, we couldn’t imagine that his world would need similar comfort in a matter of months.

My father was an intelligent, humble, loving and giving man who tried his hardest to be the best father that he could. As I said at his funeral, “he wasn’t a great father but he was a good father”. While we had our differences (and arguments) when I was younger, when I look back, our confrontations are almost laughable as my father was stubborn and frustrated in not being able to impose his wisdom on me and I was arrogant in thinking I knew what was best for me. We both should have been more open-minded.

Over the years, our respect and quality time together grew and by the time he had his stroke in 2003, our love and care for each other was solid. That was a good thing because after his stroke, he was never the same man again. My father battled for 18 months before he died. He was a very tough man; in fact he was in bad shape for years before the stroke and still managed to live to 73.

During the Christmas holidays in 2005, I was enjoying a relaxing evening in southern Sweden with my in-laws. We had a great dinner and were carefree and content. I hadn’t checked my emails in a few days so I got online. I immediately saw Don Jr.’s email about his father (Don Sr.) getting a sudden illness. My heart sunk as I knew this was serious. His email was frank, to the point and left no doubt that his dad was fighting for his life. The joy of the day evaporated and all I could think about were both Don’s.

When I received the news that Don Sr. had died after getting sick only 8 days before, I was very sad. To add to this tragedy, Don Sr.’s youngest son Rick was to be married a few days later on New Year’s Eve; now suddenly without his dad. The wedding proceeded as planned and I cannot imagine the bittersweet emotions of that day. Being in Sweden, I couldn’t be there for the funeral the way Don Jr. was for me although I really wanted to. We did have a good conversation on the phone and I sent him some loving words.

Don Sr. was a genuine, fun loving, kind and decent family man. He always had a smile on his face and after being in his presence, one immediately felt better. He adored his wife and family and that was evident when talking with him or watching their interactions. Don Sr. and his wife Janet welcomed me with open arms from the moment I met them as a young teenager and the last time I saw Don Sr. was no exception; he was smiling and asking about my life and talking about his grandchildren. Don Jr. and I had some memorable times at his parent’s house growing up; moments I still think about and will cherish forever.

As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens up”.

The door that closed on us was the death of our fathers in 2005.

The door that opened up was the birth of our sons in 2007.

It was my first child and Don Jr.’s third after having 2 girls. The families came together the following Thanksgiving and enjoyed a terrific brunch!

The two people on my mind every December are my dad (his name is Don as well) and Don Sr. This past week is significant because my dad’s birthday is the 27th and Don Sr. died on the 26th. I am grateful to have a father who along with my mother, provided for me and gave me opportunities to soar in life. I am thankful to have met Don Sr., his wife and their family. Both Don’s had a love and respect for each other unlike any father/son relationship I have witnessed. I always admired their tight bond.

Although Don Jr. and I see each other infrequently since we are countries apart, we do communicate via email which we enjoy. He is one of the most interesting, wise, fun and witty men I know. There is never a dull moment when we communicate or are together. In addition, he “chose wisely” in marriage and has a lovely wife named Kim.

He couldn’t attend my wedding in 2003 as his wife was pregnant but he did send this original note which was read at our wedding:

Dear George

Give me a dollar.

Don

I know that no guest listening understood or even laughed at what is our inside joke and something that we say to each other all the time! It made me laugh and kept a smile on my face. At the time I thought, only Don could and would be bold enough to pull off a message like that. His comforting spirit sparkled brightly on my biggest day.

We may have lost our dads but we have two beautiful young sons that have helped to ease the pain of our loss. What a blessing! Don Jr. would consistently tell me how wonderful it would be to have a child. He was right; the joy and love for one’s child is mind boggling. My enduring friendship with him inspires me and gives me strength knowing that I have such a trusting and loving friend to rely on. We needed each other in 2005 and we will need each other again.

Everyone should be fortunate enough to have a friend like Don Jr.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede and Don Jr. with sons, Thanksgiving 2007.

GIVING is More Important than Ever

With 2008 coming to a close, I was recently reflecting on the heartfelt giving that I have witnessed, heard about or participated in this past year. If our world is going to improve and escape this economic crisis, giving (in a variety of forms) will be one of the main reasons why.

The manner in which friends and acquaintances have worked with youth has inspired me. Three of my youth basketball program volunteers and I took 6 young men (ages 16-21) out for dinner in early November. It was wonderful to talk and laugh about our experiences and listen to their dreams.

The way in which thousands of people volunteered with the Barack Obama campaign was refreshing in that they helped to bring about a much needed change in the USA and around the world. They were moved by the spirit of Obama and that energy will be needed again as our President-Elect will likely have a “call to action” for all Americans to take giving to new heights.

Giving of one’s self or time is something we should do on a consistent basis throughout any year. Not only does it feel good; it also stimulates one’s community in a positive way.

The British economist William Beveridge provided these uplifting words:

“Vigour and abundance of voluntary action outside of one’s own home, individually and in association with other citizens, for bettering one’s own life and that of one’s fellows, is one of the hallmarks of a free society”

There is an abundance of quality giving and I get inspired daily by articles I read, moments I see or stories I am told. Unfortunately, there is still a portion of our world (including some I know), who don’t do enough and only live in their tiny “ME” bubble. That must change and those of us who do give must challenge and encourage those less inclined to do more or at least do something on a consistent basis.

And the giving doesn’t have to be once a week or even once a month; it should be something that is done on a consistent basis, if only 5-6 times a year. Time volunteering with or giving money to a charity (see http://www.charities.org/) are two of the most common but there are other ways to give:

Here are a few options but the possibilities are numerous:

a) Your neighborhood - Help youth in your neighborhood by teaching them a sport, about music or taking them to a museum. An acquaintance started a musical program in a NYC school that culminated in the kids being taken to Sweden to perform. They had an unbelievable experience with many being outside of NYC for the first time!

b) Vacation - If on vacation in a city, take a few hours to bring small gift to kids suffering with cancer or pitch in at a homeless shelter or visit an elderly facility. Even when not vacationing, these are positive ways to contribute. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen was a young woman singing “Amazing Grace” with a blind woman at a home for seniors. Their voices were magical and the joy in both their spirits gives me chills to this day.

c) Mentor - Be a mentor for a young person or someone in your own family. Everyone should have at least one mentor and often young people find it difficult to ask for or don’t recognize a quality mentor when they meet one. I have several mentors including an uncle, an ex boss, my first basketball coach and several friends. My life wouldn’t be as successful without their guidance and wisdom; some being mentors for over 20 years.

d) Volunteer to teach a class at a local school - This is one of the simplest ways to help young people and one that can elude our thoughts. A school in your area will usually let a person come talk to a class if asked. You can talk to them about your passion, teach them a skill you have mastered or ask what questions they might have. In addition, passing along thoughtful insight about business is always good for our youth to hear! Some of my most memorable moments occured while teaching a class of 10-11 year olds.

e) Hug or a Smile – Giving is not only towards the youth, less fortunate or elderly. Sometimes, we must take the time to give family, friends, or colleagues a heartfelt hug to show them how much we appreciate them. We don’t (myself included) hug enough and it is one of the easier things to do in life. Also, a smile typically goes a long way even to a complete stranger.

f) Help a colleague at work – Some find it difficult to help those they work with for fear of that person doing better or being competitive. Lending a helping hand for a colleague will typically be good for anyone even if the person helped rises to higher levels. One day, that person may lift you up!

g) As Americans, we must reach out to the world – Less than 25% of Americans have passports and that is a shame in my opinion. How can we learn about our brothers and sisters in this exciting world if we don’t visit a foreign country now and then? Get that passport and try a slice of a different culture. There are so many beautiful people and interesting places to see if we only open your eyes.

h) Use your automobile for people in need – There are people who need to visit a doctor, get groceries or receive treatments for an illness but cannot do it themselves so they need someone to drive them. My mother is one of those who give assistance of this kind and she currently drives for those in need. If this interests you, inquire in your community and you may find that your help is sorely needed.

2008 has been brutal in terms of the economic chaos in America and throughout the world. The financial and job losses have been disheartening and the future will be grim for at least a few years BUT I am still hopeful that we can turn these challenges around and return to those exciting years in the 1990’s IF we as Americans and the global world take GIVING to a new level.

One of the ways we can begin this new level is too do something slightly different for the holiday season this year. Take a day and volunteer in your community or invite someone to spend the holidays with you that might otherwise be spending it alone. How about presents to those less fortunate in place of the often far too many gifts we give each other? If you are able, make your kids a part of this effort so they can begin to understand and see the power of a loving and giving spirit.

Use your creative juices to find a task you like and will benefit someone or something and DO IT during the holidays. If you make the effort, you will feel fulfilled and satisfied inside your soul and that will make time with your family much more special. Below is an article about volunteering this holiday season that may inspire you the way it touched me.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesse-kornbluth/ignore-your-new-flat-scre_b_151056.html

I am hopeful and optimistic that we can fight through these tough times and become better than ever in future years. As our individual communities and countries improve, the world will become a happier and more productive place. I plan to step up my giving (in Sweden and America) and encourage others to do the same! I hope you will join me.

Giving is now more important than ever. We must all do our part if this complex global world is going to thrive.

What role are you going to play?

Happy Holidays and Happy Gswede Sunday!

Volunteering in 1996 in "Everybody Wins" program in NYC. The program matched corporations with local schools. I read to and explored language/stories with Luis every week for 1 school year. One of the hightlights of my life!

Lena - A Loving Soul


The Lennér Family in Skåne, 2006 (southern Sweden). We had magnificent weather and it was Lena's last summer.

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My mother-in-law was a loving soul and we appreciate the support of many friends during and after her battle with cancer. That support helped to keep us strong as my wife was pregnant with our first child during her illness.

Lena Lennér (64) passed away peacefully on April 18, 2007. She was a gentle, sweet and caring woman that exemplified everything good and decent about human beings. Her strength and poise as she battled cancer was remarkable and inspirational to those who knew her and even to some that only heard about her.

My father-in-law, Hans Christian (HC) cared for Lena for almost a year after her diagnosis. His endurance and love made it possible to battle for so long and helped her reach the goal of meeting her newborn grandson. The outpouring of love for Lena was incredible. (See below with the flowers).

2007 was a particularly tough year for our family as my high school basketball coach, Paul Lavelle, also died of cancer at age 54. Like Lena, he was very kind and decent. I owe much of my success to Paul's teaching and support. My youth basketball program (http://www.gswede.blogspot.com/) is dedicated to both Lena and Paul.

Recently, we were blessed with the birth of a healthy baby girl. We had hoped to receive a little sister for our son and I believe that our wishes came true so that we would always have a piece of Lena shining through our lovely daughter.

Life is precious and can be over in a split second or within a year like my mother-in-law. I was reminded of that last week when a good friend lost his 38 year old sister; she died in her sleep.

You don't know when your number will be called so do your best to live as good as you can. Our journey in this world is too short to endure needless DRAMA, negativity or petty BS; time wasters that prevent many from embracing and fulfilling their desires or dreams. It is imperative to appreciate waking up in the morning, enjoying the little things in life and loving with passion!
-
I wish you well.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

My wife and her mother in the summer of 2006

Lena (second from right) enjoying New Year's Eve 2006 with her close friends

The outpouring of love for Lena after her funeral

Mamma and the Mobile Phone

Last week, I was travelling alone on the bus to pick up my young son from day-care. As I was entering a relaxed state, a man in his 50’s starting speaking to me in Swedish which startled me slightly.

He said, “Du är duktig med din son bussen” (You are so good with your son on the bus). Bewildered and curious at his words, I felt right away that this would be one of those interesting moments in life. I immediately said “Tack mycket” (thanks so much) and did recognize him from previous rides but wondered why he was giving me such kind praise.

He went on to say, “I see a lot of children who say Mamma, Mamma but the parent keeps talking on the mobile phone. I think it is a shame”. We had a great conversation about this subject and he was genuinely upset as what he obviously witnessed time and time again. I agreed with him as it is quite selfish and bad parenting to a) be on a mobile phone when one is with a child and b) to stay on it when the child wants attention.

Since I am focused on my son during our bus rides, I never experienced the full depth of his displeasure. During the next few days, I made a point to observe parents with children on the bus and it didn’t take long before a mother displayed exactly what the man was complaining about.

The scenario:

A mother entered the bus with her 2 year old son talking on her mobile phone. Not only was she ignoring her child once she got situated; she was also loud and everyone could hear her conversation which is annoying on its own. Her child looked up several times (with a pacifier in his mouth) to get her attention but to no avail as she continued to talk and laugh for 10 minutes with barely a glance at her son.

We got off the bus at the same stop and the mobile phone was still in her ear. She nearly ran into my son and me as she was so engrossed in her conversation. I watched her cross the street (still talking) and walk until she was out of my sight. For 15 minutes, she had the opportunity to talk with her son and have some fun with him before daycare. Instead, she chose what seemed to be a meaningless phone conversation.

I do understand that we live in a mobile world and sometimes one does need to take a call or send a sms/text message as there are urgencies in our busy lives. I have occasionally done it myself but 95% of the time, I never use my mobile phone when I am with my son whether it is in the park, at the mall or on a bus. In my book, this is a great time to bond and teach a child especially on a bus as there are many fun things to observe and people to interact with.

To be fair, I am a serial sms/text person and my wife does get annoyed with me sometimes when I am alone with her but I have improved in that area immensely compared to a few years ago. Sweden is savvy in technology and I caught that bug when we moved here. If one is not careful, mobile phones along with the internet/email can overwhelm a person. I learned my lesson.

After hearing about my bus experience, my wife reminded me that kids learn from WHAT WE DO - NOT FROM WHAT WE SAY. So true. I firmly believe that the impact we make on our children when they are young (especially 2-5 years) goes a long way in determining what kind of people they will grow up to be.

At some point soon, I hope that mother realizes that a mobile phone should never take the place of a child.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Men in Black - Gswede and Brother-in-Law at a 2002 wedding in Provence, France

Perfect as a Peach!

Two days before Thanksgiving, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our second child, a beautiful little girl. Like our son almost two years ago, the joy we felt when we heard that first cry is an unparalleled feeling. Tears came to both our eyes simultaneously.

One of my dearest friends sent me a congratulatory email with one sentence:

“You are a lucky man”.

I am grateful daily for his words along with the health of our new family of 4. Life has been good to me and I do my best to keep it that way by respecting the values taught by my loving parents and never taking for granted the simple joy of waking up in the morning.

During the pre/post excitement of a new child, one can sometimes overlook the extraordinary work it takes for a woman to deliver a child. I made sure to be in the moment and appreciate the awesome power displayed by my wife. I was inspired to see her handle this tougher 2nd pregnancy so well and bear the sometimes brutal pain after delivering our daughter.

My mother-in-law and father were never far away from our thoughts. They both died in the last 4 years and will never have the chance to see their granddaughter. I was wearing my dad’s wedding ring throughout just as I did at our son’s birth

Our son’s reaction to his new baby sister is top of mind these days. I brought him to the hospital to see his mom and new sibling after a couple of days as we thought it was better for him to meet them there rather then to come home and see a new baby on his territory. The visit went well but it probably didn’t register fully with him.

When he came home after day-care, there was no doubt that he was a bit shaken by the tiny girl in the house. It has only been a few days but there have been many moments (some at night) where the reality of his new world is evident. His reaction has been as expected and we look forward to him embracing his sister and taking care of her as a big brother should.

Like most newborns, our princess sleeps quite a bit but still manages to keep mamma from enjoying a quality night’s sleep. She also makes those squeaks and occasional gulps that prevent her mom from sleeping just as she is dozing off.

In Sweden, the father enjoys the right to be off from his job during the first 2 weeks of the newborns life, which is a terrific aspect of the generous parental leave. I love this time as it is so precious and needed; allowing the family to bond for a couple of weeks without the pressures of work.

In addition, my wife will be on maternity leave for 1 year. In late 2009, I will take parental leave for the second time when my wife returns to her job. In 2007, I had 5 months off with my then 10 month old son; time filled with invaluable father & son bonding moments. Kids are only small once and we are fortunate to live in a country that values the family unit.

As we heard many times, life with a second child is more complicated than the first but we are ready for the challenge!

Livet är bra (Life is good) as I like to say in Swedish!

Our little girl is “Perfect as a Peach” and for that we are thankful.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

My wife introducing our son to his new baby sister.

A FRIEND in Need

In our busy lives, we might forget to reflect on friendship and what it really means. Here’s a part of how I define it from one of my favorite quotes:

Wherever you are it is your friends who make your world.
-- William James

With a new child on the way and travelling a few days a week, focusing on anything besides my wife and son was difficult as my year end work had a hefty inbox! One night last week, I reflected for a moment and decided to help a friend in need.

It was a Monday night and I was due to travel the next day, having to wake up at 4:30am to catch a train. Our friend (and wonderful godmother to our son) was very cold in her apartment due to the temperature INSIDE being 55 Fahrenheit (13 Celsius). Because of work being done in her home, the heater had had to be taken away. My wife and I had a portable heater that we hadn’t used in years and were planning to give it to her before the cold came to Sweden.

The last thing I wanted to do was leave the comfort of my cozy home and deliver a heater but I knew the small inconvenience for me would be so worthwhile for her. There was only one option; I drove the heater to her home. I have slept in a cold apartment before so I know firsthand the unpleasantness. Our friend was very thankful. The journey through the empty streets of Stockholm took less than an hour and gave me the chance to relax, reflect and listen to some of my classic ipod tunes.

If you are able, try to help a friend when they are in need. Are we really that busy that we can’t stop for a moment and help someone that has been an important and loving part of our life? Usually not.

Friendship comes in many forms:

1) A good friend always picks me up when I fly to America. It takes at least 6 hours of his day to do it but he never fails unless he is out of town.

2) The godfather of our son had a dear friend in America with breast cancer who was receiving treatment in NYC. He wanted to send her flowers but time was short. I called a friend and asked him to deliver them for him and he did so without blinking an eye. The woman was shocked and touched to see the beautiful flowers delivered in person by my friend. Her husband told the godfather of our son how wonderful his gesture was.

3) An ex roommate in Brooklyn, NY had the luxury of having a company car. It always impressed me when he would pick up numerous neighborhood friends before heading into Manhattan for a night of partying. He would go out of his way more often than not to make the lives of our friends a little easier. No one probably noticed but I always did.

4) When I was living in NYC, my friends in Pennsylvania helped me to sell my car on two different occasions.

5) One of my dearest friends had many guests when he lived in Madrid, Spain. I visited him after a particularly gruelling two months of work and was in need of a good time. As his guest, I was taken care of superbly and had one of the best vacation weeks of my life! I heard similar views from others who visited him.

6)
When a close friend was living in Stockholm, he always made sure my guests from abroad were entertained which helped me immensely. Not knowing the city as well as he did, I could always count on him to show my guests a good time or tell them where they could go for an interesting or fun experience.

It doesn’t matter if your act of kindness for a friend is large or small, what matters is helping a friend in their time of need. I would do most things within my ability for my friends especially if they really needed help and would hope that they would reciprocate (most would) in a similar manner.

Never take the blessing of friendship for granted. To have kind, sincere and trustworthy friends to enjoy and rely on is a true privilege that should always be respected.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede's son attending a FRIEND's birthday party

Losing your Life: All at Once or One Day at a Time

Two of the most dynamic and appealing men I know are as they say, "caught between a rock and a hard place". Lately, they have been on my mind as they have common ground in life similarities and level of marital suffering.

I have spent quality time (infrequently) with both men and we share a friend dear to all of us. At a point in the near future, I hope they gain the courage and inspiration to change their lives and move forward in a positive and productive manner. My gut feeling is that they are getting little or no advice in order to improve their situation; something many people need, particularly in an unhealthy marriage.

Below is some basic information about them:

A) Both are smart, intellectual and interesting.

B) One has had several challenging female relationships throughout life and the other seemed to always have cool girlfriends/female friends around him.

C) During our times together, I have enjoyed their wisdom and company.

D) Both are athletic.

E) Both had a WIDE NET (maybe didn't know) to choose from in regards to picking a life partner.

F) Unfortunately, both made the IRRESPONSIBLE mistake (See September article on the right) of not "Choosing Wisely" (See March article) with regard to marriage.

G) Both have endured (at a minimum) several years of unhappiness and today their marriages are at a precarious level.

H) Both have children.

If asked, my message to them would be:

Although you made the mistake of choosing the wrong life partner, it is never too late to turn that negative into a positive. You are two of the most interesting men I know but you have built yourself a "house of cards", that while still standing is not far from collapse. You must DO SOMETHING about it with regard to moving your life and the life of your family forward. There are only two paths to take; Attempting to gain your happiness back in marriage OR a journey in the other less favorable direction (divorce) which could actually be the best thing for everyone in the long run. Each day you "dangle in the wind" is another day of lost hope while the abyss gets deeper and deeper.

And there is hope. There is always hope but you have to go after it by getting the proper help and/or counseling from professionals or friends. Bad marriages don't get better on their own. If you want to save your marriage, you must do whatever it takes to move it in the proper direction. That may involve confronting your spouse and telling her your true feelings and what you really want from family life. It may involve a host of troubling or distasteful elements but if it takes you out of your suffering, it will be worth it. Let's not forgot that an unhappy marriage does little for your wife and could negatively influence your child's future. I firmly believe that it is better for a child to grow up in a world not living with both parents than to grow up in a BROKEN household.

One of the best forms of advice I ever received was from an acquaintance in New York City. We were friends but not extremely close, although he could be trusted and had great judgement. I was dealing with a complicated business situation that I had to confront and bring to a close. Not wanting to face it like a man, I was doing everything possible to avoid an unpleasant situation. For a variety of reasons, I kept procrastinating and procrastinating.

One evening, my friend pulled me aside and asked how it was going. I said, "nothing new, still thinking about it". He said to me, " George, stop messing around and DO SOMETHING about this situation; It will not improve or come to a conclusion unless you make it happen". His tone was strong, a bit angry and to the point. It was one of the most poignant moments and life lessons in my life. The day after, I attacked my problem relentlessly and it was resolved in a matter of days. His words changed my life forever. I think of them constantly and when faced with an important situation that needs action on my part, I never procrastinate even if it is uncomfortable or unpleasant.

Remember these words:

There are many ways to Lose your Life: "All at Once" or "One Day at a Time".

1) All at Once - (i.e. plane crash or tragedy)

2) One Day at a Time - (i.e. each day in a unhappy marriage or not living the life you desire)

DO SOMETHING about your situations as they will not improve on their own. Every day with inaction means a day where a small part of you dies.

I implore you to ACT NOW in much the same way my friend inspired me. If I didn't act swiftly after receiving such spirited encouragement , my life wouldn't have been nearly as interesting, happy or exciting.

Now is your opportunity. Don't wait or your life just might be LOST, One Day at a Time.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede enjoying a moment of relaxtion - (London, England coffee shop, 2006)

It’s a New Dawn, a New Day, a New Life

(Harvard Law School classmates Kenneth Mack and President Elect Barack Obama on Nov 4, 2008)

(Ken and Lisa Mack at President Elect Obama's speech in Grant Park, Chicago)

In April, I wrote about my childhood friend and high school classmate Kenneth Mack’s unique perspective (http://gswede-sunday.blogspot.com/2008/04/ken-mack-unique-perspective-on-barack.html) on Barack Obama; both having attended Harvard Law School at the same time and serving together on the Harvard Law Review.

Ken was the first call I made to America after Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States.

I got goose bumps receiving Ken’s email this week describing the election night festivities at Grant Park in Chicago as he was 50 feet (15 meters) away from Barack when he gave his historic speech! The picture above (hug) needs no words as most Americans, Swedes, Europeans and the World would embrace him in the same manner, especially knowing that there is now hope for a better tomorrow, inspiration to change or live your dream and relief that the last 8 years in Washington will soon be a thing of the past.

(The Promise of a New USA - The Swedish Newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" on November 6)

I wake up almost every day feeling good but this past week was slightly different as I had an extra bounce in my step and joy in my heart. Indeed, this is a proud moment for African-Americans but just as importantly, it’s a proud time for many other Americans and our brothers and sisters all over the world. Always being interested in others cultures, it warms my heart to see the love for Obama and what he represents pour in to me via calls/emails.

What may be lost in this well-deserved euphoria is the challenge that Barack Obama will place on Americans to improve in many aspects of life such as mentorship, the environment and sacrifice in general. Collectively, we must put more emphasis on impacting our country so we can help our new President Elect deliver on the “CHANGE” he wants to bring about.

The facts from the paragraph below are disturbing:

The black illegitimacy rate remains at 70%. Blacks did worse on the SAT in 2000 than in 1990. Fifty-five percent of all federal prisoners are black, though we are only 13% of the population. The academic achievement gap between blacks and whites persists even for the black middle class.
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-oe-steele5-2008nov05,0,1642069.story

Barack Obama cannot solve this troubling problem alone but he can be the inspiration for people to ACT and DO SOMETHING along with caring about other important ills that affect our country like obesity, the financial and housing crises, gas guzzling automobiles, bad parenting, lack of healthcare for millions and insufficient care for the youth and community around us. We all should be willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of America.

In addition, Americans MUST show more interest in the global world. I know many people who sadly have never been outside of the USA despite having the financial means, and far less than 25% of Americans even have a passport! I know our vast country has a lot to see but the disinterest in our fascinating world is disconcerting and has to get better.

The American Ambassador in Sweden, Michael Wood (friend of President Bush and whose wife voted for Obama) said this about the election result in the Swedish Newspaper "Dagens Nyheter":

“I am uplifted, enthusiastic, I think it’s fantastic! I think about my black friends that I played basketball with at home in Flint, Michigan, and of my black friends at Yale when I was 20”.

I am proud of Americans for having the courage and intellect to set our country on a new path by electing Barack Obama. John McCain may have done a decent job as president but it was clear from the Obama “Tidal Wave” of support that his rise to the top was going to be almost impossible to defeat.

We now have the ultimate responsibility to act and sacrifice so that America can correct the last 8 years and once again be the light that shines brightly inside and outside of our borders.

Remember the words of President Jack Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country”.

It’s a New Dawn, a New Day, a New Life………and I am Feeling Good!

Below are 10 heartfelt emails sent to me along with my pictures from Stockholm Sweden’s festive election night party.

Happy Gswede Sunday!
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1) From a mother in Chicago, Illinois - USA:

I know it's not particular to Chicago, but I've never seen more smiles on the street, more people with a spring in their step, more folks giving up their seats on public transit to the pregnant and elderly, and (FINALLY) kids without their underwear exposed! The under 30 set has suddenly taken to properly pulled up pants, tucked in shirts and perfect posture.
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I've seen endless interviews with school principals (especially in Chicago schools where the black male graduation rate is less than 50%) who say that kids are sitting up straighter, are paying more attention, and attendance is at an all time high. Smart/Geek is the new cool. Could there be anything cooler?!"

2) Venice, Italy:

George,
This morning, having breakfast, I thought exactly about this and I wanted to send you just a brief writing, telling you that what happened yesterday is something more than a hope, it is true and it gives the whole world a great teaching showing that changing is possible if we really want to.
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My feelings are the same of all the people in the world who since yesterday have started a new era, and I am happy and proud to share this joy with them all, and with you!

Barack Obama is the new President of the U.S.A. but in some ways he is also ours, his election is the the very symbol of a redemption in respect to all the abuses of power that have been inflicted for ages to Afro-American, and more, he would be the voice of those who believe in values such as freedom, equality and equal opportunies.

3) Montreal, Canada:

Hello George,

I always wished I would be part of this historical event.
Have to say I'm very proud of Americans today.

Congratulations

Love you,

4) Pennsylvania, USA: the wife of one of my mentors:

I am still crying tears of joy for our new president. It was so emotional towatch Obama accept the will of the people to be our next president.There wasa sea of people, a beautiful blend of black and white faces all crying,cheering, singing and dancing and witnessing a new hope for this humble manwho will be our next president. God has sent us another son to lead us outof hatred, despair and greed. A new day is dawning for America. What awonderful time in history to witness this miracle!!
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I am renewed with hopefor the future of our people and the world. He is a man for all people. Godhas chosen him to lead us out of the darkness. He is our Moses and will leadus to the promised land. We have a man who will help heal the world. Obamais fulfilling the dream that Martin Luther King had. Our country is risingout of the bondage of slavery into the freedom of all races. He will startto rid our country of bigotry and restore the faith that we are all equal inGod's eyes. I can believe in the words that Obama said, " YES WE CAN " !!
We did and we will restore this great country to honor again. Obama will leadus. I thank God for this wonderful man. We have a new beginning, a new daydawning and a restoration of hope.

5) From a Swede in Stockholm, Sweden:

A new beginning, not only for the US but for the world! A unique chance for the US to recover and take back leadership through action. Action in terms of walking the walk rather than just talking the talk in regards to the actual content of the Constitution. Many of us Europeans want to love and look up to the United States but George W Bush and the religious right has made that downright impossible.
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Also hope that President Obama will listen to the 'Code Green' message introduced by Tom L Friedman in his last book 'Hot, Flat and Crowded'. The Financial crisis, recession and wars will all be very challenging but the really big question will be related to climate change. No doubt. Will the US take on leadership here...? I hope so...

6) From New York City, USA. This friend met Obama when he was a law professor in Chicago:

George,

You would have loved NYC last night. There was celebrating in the streets! I am guessing that it was right after 9/11 that may have been the last time you would have seen folks carrying US Flags in the streets. I wish you were here to see it

The Dream is once again alive!

When first, Pennsylvania ... then Ohio ... then New Mexico were each called for Obama, Ellen and I finally allowed ourselves to believe that it WAS going to happen. We were both crying like babies.

I remember talking to someone at an AC Board retreat over two years-ago and discussing the possibility of Barack's nomination as the Democratic candidate for President. He felt that Hillary' Clinton's "machine" and traditional big-money support would be too much to overcome. I suggested that I felt we were in for a "perfect storm" due to the Bush Presidency ... that after two more years of this Adminstration, people were going to be wanting near-unprecedented change ... and this was before our nation was introduced to both Katrina and the Wall Street meltdown.

What I did know, however, was a bit about a man who I had the pleasure of meeting while in Chicago. Over an incredible serving dish of greens at a holiday party at the home of a mutual acquaintance, I struck up a conversation with a guy who was at that time, a Senior Lecturer at University of Chicago Law School. We shared a bit of our love of good greens, jazz and music, art and architecture and even a bit about politics. He was extremely personable and impressed me as someone who was both smart and wise beyond his years. A couple years later, we had the chance to again meet at an event in Chicago and we both remembered one another from that conversation over the greens. Little did I then know that man was going to become our 44th President of the United States.

As an early donor to the campaign, I have watched both intently and intensely. I have seen this former community organizer, surround himself with those that could create an organization that seemed to so well-understand both the nature of the times and how to best "tap-into" the hopes and desires of these times. I saw a campaign run a near-flawless strategy. Like the candidate, they seemed to be unflappable - stay on message; no drama; respond, but in a measured way; attack, yet again, in the most positive manner. I received daily e-mails that somehow seemed to always speak directly to me. This has given me great confidence in his ability to "organize" an effective government.

What none of this says, however, is that my ability to hope and dream has again been restored. As one who became interested in politics as a youth with Bobby Kennedy, I had begun to wonder if I would ever again be able to dream about our Country and its place in the world. I had hoped, beyond hope, that in his remarks last night, Barack would encourage and enable others to dream again. When he told the story of that 106 year-old woman who voted for the first time yesterday ... then asked us to envision what we would hope our world would look like in 100 years, I was so encouraged. When he said that it would not be easy, would take time and would require sacrifice, I finally realized that we were finally again hearing words of truth from our President.

As we once said in business, we stand at a moment in time filled with great challenges ... the exciting thing about this is that also means we have great opportunities to rally together to overcome those challenges to create a new and much better future. To paraphrase Michelle Obama, I am once again proud of my Country and its people.

7) An American living in Stockholm, Sweden:

Thanks so much, George, for helping me get involved.

I left the election watch party just before 5 am and arrived home in time to watch CNN call the election for Barack Obama. Nicholas (my 7-year-old), with his usual impeccable timing, woke up and joined me at the kitchen TV to watch the celebration and listen to Barack's speech. Of course he has been totally devoted to Barack Obama's candidacy, much as one is devoted to the local football team. He cheerfully recites the pros and cons of the two candidates as if he has come to some carefully reasoned choice.

But this morning, I wanted so much for him to understand what a momentous historical occasion that he is privileged to witness first hand. I tried to explain it to him. He listened to the TV commentators. And then he asked me, "Mamma, what is an African-American?" I explained that to him. He didn't get what the big deal was.

At that moment, I realized that I had just had a glimpse into the future as my children would see it. I was filled with a deep sense of contentment.
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8) From Boston, Massachussets - USA:
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Hi George,

My thoughts and feelings on this historical win are very simple. Having been raised by a single mother as an African-American male in a country where my father was confronted by racism to the degree that his antagonist bought the station where he worked only to fire him, this pivotal moment is a demonstration that despite ignorance and hatred, the Truth Shall Set You Free. And the Truth is that there is no greater power than God. And since we are ALL in His Image and Likeness, no man - human being can hide from the Truth. What this means is that despite the efforts of the few, the many have overcome great odds to demonstrate what is Right.

The other thought about this experience is this:

It is a huge collective sigh of relief for America. It has restored hope and faith in America's people - both black and white - male and female - that we can look at each other as human beings - not as black or white; male or female.

As a citizen it is a collective sigh of relief because the perspective from around the world has also shifted, which is perhaps even bigger than the election of Barack Obama - it has shown the world that there is a change in America that actually is now in-line with the ideology of Democracy. Something which America has tried to force on the rest of the world, despite the hypocrisy (Racism in its own backyard).
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9) Pennsylvania, USA:
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We, as a nation founded on the basic principles of equality, fairness, and opportunity for all, can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Relief that with the eyes of the world focused on us, we didn't make a mockery of the sacrifices so many have made. We can be warmed by knowing that our collective sacrifice is not without its final reward. Imagine if the Iraqis, many of whom have chosen to support our mission in their country, would have learned last night that we think exclusion is good. Using our exclusionary example, keeping the Kurds, Shia, and Sunni "separate but equal" would be the rational choice for the Iraqi nation. Never mind that ultimately its sustainability would prove to be suspect, as our American experiment in separate but equal borne from the 1896 Supreme Court case, Plessy vs. Ferguson proved to be.

And what of the plurality of the American electorate, soured by the diminished living standards brought on by a bankrupt political ideology and the lack of a common national purpose? The leading edge of the supposed beneficiaries of the American way of life are only now coming to grips with the weight of an egregious national debtor mentality that has come to symbolize a country without bearing or common sense. It is with this backdrop that America listened to its better angels. The majority of its citizens rmiraculously recalling in the voting booth that America was meant to be, "..indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We have a reason to hope again.
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10) Boston, Massachusetts - USA:
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I, like hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, am filled with joy and hope for a more compassionate America and a more peaceful world.

The sobering fact is that the lofty expectations throughout the world will put pressure on this truly impressive man that would be overwhelming for most if not all men.

The problems facing him are manifold, and 8 years let alone 4 is an insufficient amount of time to get the mechanisms in place and get them working to the point where his vision will be realized.

To expect him to solve the world financial crisis, put a peaceful end to two bitter wars, bring the US education system out of the dark ages, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to tenable levels, and end US dependence on foreign oil in just 4 or 8 years is unrealistic.

But I do hope it will be enough time for him to change the culture of greed, short-term vision, American imperialism and total disregard for the Constitution that has ruled Washington over the last 8 years. And perhaps we will be able to get a glimpse of his vision as it begins to take form. Then we can only hope that the subsequent leader(s) will take the baton and stay the course.

Should this happen, I do see the possibility that one day this country will have the low poverty levels, high education levels and economic dominance of the past. I also see the US becoming a leader in conservation and sustainable energy development. The ultimate icing on the cake would be if one day the US would be perceived throughout the world as the preeminent world power and peacekeeper, not because of its military might, but thanks to a culture and track record of humanitarian aid and intervention in cases of genocide or equally odious cruelty and oppression.

Of course, I sound like a dreamer, and perhaps the Obama presidency will not be able to get anywhere near to this scenario. But, I have total confidence that he will try his damnedest. And, I am thrilled that we have provided him the opportunity.
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November 4, 2008 - Election Night party at Scandic Anglais in Stockholm, Sweden





















November 4, 2008 - Election Night party at Scandic Anglais in Stockholm, Sweden

2008 USA Election - Pennsylvania will Show the Way; Maybe

I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and had an ideal childhood filled with parental love, boundaries, good times, basketball and racial harmony. My hometown had and still has a high minority representation and everyone seemed to get along.

In 1992, while living in Pennsylvania, one of my fondest memories was walking to the polling center to cast my vote for president. It was a lovely November morning and although a a bit groggy at 7am, excitement was bubbling for the possibility of "Change" which was well needed in those tough economical times. There is no need to explain the years from 1992 -2000 as everyone should remember how America flew like an eagle.

The election of 1992 is not unlike 2008; the difference being that the economy is in much worse shape today. "Change" is needed now more than ever. Like 1992, I am happy to have cast my vote for what I feel will be a historical change. If that change doesn't happen, Pennsylvania could potentially be the reason why.

John McCain has spent a great deal of time in Pennsylvania as his team feels they can pull off an upset (see link below) even though it has been a long time since a Republican has won the state in a presidential election and Barack Obama is leading in every poll.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/us/politics/22pennsylvania.html?_r=1&ei=5070&emc=eta1&oref=slogin

One reason McCain has a chance here, is because of the areas surrounding the major cities that are vastly rural and different than inner city life. Here is what James Carville (Clinton's 1992 campaign manager) said about Pennsylvania:

"Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between".

Is he right? You can be the judge by reading an eloquent description from a longtime friend who has lived in Pennsylvania most of his life and went to college in the western city of Pittsburgh.

PA is PA. It's the 2nd oldest state, per capita, in the US; it has the highest number of colleges and universities in the country, yet retains the fewest number of graduates within its borders; has been associated with the term Pennsyltucky due to the central region of the state that looks mostly like West Virginia and Kentucky, two states with the lowest number of minority residents; and as older voters go (as I mentioned above PA as a lot of them), they are the most likely, statistically, whether black or white, to harbor racist or backward leaning views.

A Pennsylvania congressman was bold in his assessment of his constituency which could cost him his seat in Washington. Below is his view from a CNN article (link below) along with an opinion of a top labor leader in the state:

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/16/murtha.racism.apology/index.html

Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a supporter of Barack Obama's presidential bid, apologized Thursday for calling western Pennsylvania "a racist area."

In recent weeks, a YouTube video of labor leader Richard Trumka describing a racist reaction to
Obama he encountered on a trip back to his western Pennsylvania hometown has become an Internet sensation. "Our kids are moving away because there's no future here," Trumka says in a widely circulated clip of his speech to a United Steelworkers convention this year. "And here's a man, Barack Obama, who's going to fight for people like us, and you won't vote for him because of the color of his skin? Are you out of your ever-loving mind?"

Those previous opinions speak volumes about why McCain thinks he can win Pennsylvania.

Three memories stand out prominently about my time living in Pennsylvania:

1) My high school was very diverse and it was wonderful to see blacks and whites dating and being friends. The racial harmony was good although there were some underlying issues. In addition, I played basketball from an early age and the issue of race was rarely evident in all my games from age 9 to 17.

2) One of my best friends growing up was white and his family was like none I have ever met. They were warm, loving and treated me like one of their own. I was welcomed with open arms and race was never an issue. I was a groomsmen at his wedding in Pennsylvania and 3 of the 4 groomsmen were black; a rare sight at a predominately white wedding! His choice of representation on his most important day tells you how valuable the values of his parents were to his being. I mention this because I have met families where race played a major part (i.e. # 3 below) in the division of the family.

3) While living in Pennsylvania, I dated a lovely, charming and interesting woman which for my taste was rare in my hometown. We genuinely liked each other and had a fantastic 2 weeks together. The fatal mistake was stopping by her house one day to pick up something. I didn't want to go into her home as I felt there was no benefit but I decided to against my better judgement. Her dad was there with a frozen face as he reached out to shake my hand. I could sense his instability by the way he looked at me. At that moment, I knew our blissful dating would never be the same.

I didn't see her for the next week which puzzled me. She finally appeared one day and we talked. Her dad told her in no uncertain terms, "If you see him again, I will disown you". I couldn't believe it as I had never witnessed such intense hate personally but her facial expression proved this was no joke. She never realized that her father was a racist until that moment and didn't know how to handle it and it was not my job to show her how. Nothing more was said as I knew I would never see her again. With a father like hers, I hope she found the courage to confront or "disown" HIM for his wicked ways.

Finally, the aforementioned friend who wrote about Pennsylvania gave me his assessment about America, our future and this election:

America is demographically speaking at least 10 years from finally being able to throw off the vestiges of the heaviest hands of racial and ethnic stereotyping. In addition, as the waves of immigrants who have migrated here over the past 20 years (in record numbers, even eclipsing the numbers at the turn of the 20th century) begin to fully engage in our representative democracy, we'll see that their lack of fear of government will take hold at the ballot box. The Reagan Revolution with its "the government is evil" rhetoric has spawned an extraordinary period in America. At a time when people need to rely on the power of government, roughly half the country is cynical, and disparaging of the ability of government to do good. Excessive government intervention isn't good, but no intervention is bad, really bad. Let's hope we get it right in this election.

Will Pennsylvania be on the winning side of "Change"? I hope so, but there is always that chance that those who fear change will want to stay in the same dark period of the last 8 years.

Our slogan in Pennsylvania (Keystone State) is "You've got a friend in Pennsylvania".

That friend will either be John McCain or Barack Obama on Tuesday November 4. The choice could be pivotal in determining our next president.

I hope Pennsylvania and America make a well-educated decision.

Happy Gswede Sunday!


These lovely girls live in Pennsylvania and are the children of two friends. What will America and the world be like when they are able to vote?

Transformational - A Perspective on Barack Obama from 2 Republicans

Former Secretary of State and decorated military man, General Colin Powell recently gave an eloquent talk on the American Sunday news show "Meet the Press" about why he is supporting Barack Obama.

Powell's endorsement of Obama along with his obvious distaste for the tactics of the McCain campaign, the direction of the Republican Party and the current administration speaks volumes about the change taking place in America.

Being a soldier, I never thought Powell would go against his own party and the numerous Republican presidents he has served by supporting Obama. His courage to speak from his heart is refreshing. He used the words "transformational" and "intellectual vigor", traits that are admirable in a world leader. He also liked the cohesive message that Obama has displayed about the economic and financial crises which will probably be the biggest challenge for the next president. If you have not seen the interview, I encourage you to click on or paste one of the two links below.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/27265490#27265490

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27265369/

In addition, an article from another Republican caught my eye for it's passionate and heartfelt view of Obama. Not many people (Democrats or Republicans) have written such glowing prose on why Obama will win and become a great president. Judging from Obama's meteoric rise from 4 years ago, I suspect many in America and around the globe might feel the same way although they might not shout it to the world!

I enjoy those who are bold, provide "sizzle and style" and put themselves on the line for their beliefs. Even if you don't agree with Frank Schaeffer, you may view Barack Obama a bit differently after reading his article.

The entire article (and link) is below and can also be found on the popular blog, "The Huffington Post".

Happy Gswede Sunday!

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/obama-will-be-one-of-the_b_132843.html

Huffington Post, Posted October 8, 2008

Obama Will Be One of The Greatest (and Most Loved) American Presidents

Great presidents are made great by horrible circumstances combined with character, temperament and intelligence. Like firemen, cops, doctors or soldiers, presidents need a crisis to shine.

Obama is one of the most intelligent presidential aspirants to ever step forward in American history. The likes of his intellectual capabilities have not been surpassed in public life since the Founding Fathers put pen to paper. His personal character is also solid gold. Take heart, America: we have the leader for our times.

I say this as a white, former life-long Republican. I say this as the proud father of a Marine. I say this as just another American watching his pension evaporate along with the stock market! I speak as someone who knows it's time to forget party loyalty, ideology and pride and put the country first. I say this as someone happy to be called a fool for going out on a limb and declaring that, 1) Obama will win, and 2) he is going to be amongst the greatest of American presidents.

Obama is our last best chance. He's worth laying it all on the line for.

This is a man who in the age of greed took the high road of community service. This is the good father and husband. This is the humble servant. This is the patient teacher. This is the scholar statesman. This is the man of deep Christian faith.

Good stories about Obama abound; from his personal relationship with his Secret Service agents (he invites them into his home to watch sports, and shoots hoops with them) to the story about how, more than twenty years ago, while standing in the check-in line at an airport, Obama paid a $100 baggage surcharge for a stranger who was broke and stuck. (Obama was virtually penniless himself in those days.) Years later after he became a senator, that stranger recognized Obama's picture and wrote to him to thank him. She received a kindly note back from the senator. (The story only surfaced because the person, who lives in Norway, told a local newspaper after Obama ran for the presidency. The paper published a photograph of this lady proudly displaying Senator Obama's letter.)

Where many leaders are two-faced; publicly kindly but privately feared and/or hated by people closest to them, Obama is consistent in the way he treats people, consistently kind and personally humble. He lives by the code that those who lead must serve. He believes that. He lives it. He lived it long before he was in the public eye.

Obama puts service ahead of ideology. He also knows that to win politically you need to be tough. He can be. He has been. This is a man who does what works, rather than scoring ideological points. In other words he is the quintessential non-ideological pragmatic American. He will (thank God!) disappoint ideologues and purists of the left and the right.

Obama has a reservoir of personal physical courage that is unmatched in presidential history. Why unmatched? Because as the first black contender for the presidency who will win, Obama, and all the rest of us, know that he is in great physical danger from the seemingly unlimited reserve of unhinged racial hatred, and just plain unhinged ignorant hatred, that swirls in the bowels of our wounded and sinful country. By stepping forward to lead, Obama has literally put his life on the line for all of us in a way no white candidate ever has had to do. (And we all know how dangerous the presidency has been even for white presidents.)

Nice stories or even unparalleled courage isn't the only point. The greater point about Obama is that the midst of our worldwide financial meltdown, an expanding (and losing) war in Afghanistan, trying to extricate our country from a wrong and stupidly mistaken ruinously expensive war in Iraq, our mounting and crushing national debt, awaiting the next (and inevitable) al Qaeda attack on our homeland, watching our schools decline to Third World levels of incompetence, facing a general loss of confidence in the government that has been exacerbated by the Republicans doing all they can to undermine our government's capabilities and programs... President Obama will take on the leadership of our country at a make or break time of historic proportions. He faces not one but dozens of crisis, each big enough to define any presidency in better times.

As luck, fate or divine grace would have it (depending on one's personal theology) Obama is blessedly, dare I say uniquely, well-suited to our dire circumstances. Obama is a person with hands-on community service experience, deep connections to top economic advisers from the renowned University of Chicago where he taught law, and a middle-class background that gives him an abiding knowledgeable empathy with the rest of us. As the son of a single mother, who has worked his way up with merit and brains, recipient of top-notch academic scholarships, the peer-selected editor of the Harvard Law Review and, in three giant political steps to state office, national office and now the presidency, Obama clearly has the wit and drive to lead.

Obama is the sober voice of reason at a time of unreason. He is the fellow keeping his head while all around him are panicking. He is the healing presence at a time of national division and strife. He is also new enough to the political process so that he doesn't suffer from the terminally jaded cynicism, the seen-it-all-before syndrome afflicting most politicians in Washington. In that regard we Americans lucked out. It's as if having despaired of our political process we picked a name from the phone book to lead us and that person turned out to be a very man we needed.

Obama brings a healing and uplifting spiritual quality to our politics at the very time when our worst enemy is fear. For eight years we've been ruled by a stunted fear-filled mediocrity of a little liar who has expanded his power on the basis of creating fear in others. Fearless Obama is the cure. He speaks a litany of hope rather than a litany of terror.

As we have watched Obama respond in a quiet reasoned manner to crisis after crisis, in both the way he has responded after being attacked and lied about in the 2008 campaign season, to his reasoned response to our multiplying national crises, what we see is the spirit of a trusted family doctor with a great bedside manner. Obama is perfectly suited to hold our hand and lead us through some very tough times. The word panic is not in the Obama dictionary.

America is fighting its "Armageddon" in one fearful heart at a time. A brilliant leader with the mild manner of an old-time matter-of-fact country doctor soothing a frightened child is just what we need. The fact that our "doctor" is a black man leading a hitherto white-ruled nation out of the mess of its own making is all the sweeter and raises the Obama story to that of moral allegory.

Obama brings a moral clarity to his leadership reserved for those who have had to work for everything they've gotten and had to do twice as well as the person standing next to them because of the color of their skin. His experience of succeeding in spite of his color, social background and prejudice could have been embittering or one that fostered a spiritual rebirth of forgiveness and enlightenment. Obama radiates the calm inner peace of the spirit of forgiveness.

Speaking as a believing Christian I see the hand of a merciful God in Obama's candidacy. The biblical metaphors abound. The stone the builder rejected is become the cornerstone... the last shall be first... he that would gain his life must first lose it... the meek shall inherit the earth...

For my secular friends I'll allow that we may have just been extraordinarily lucky! Either way America wins.

Only a brilliant man, with the spirit of a preacher and the humble heart of a kindly family doctor can lead us now. We are afraid, out of ideas, and worst of all out of hope. Obama is the cure. And we Americans have it in us to rise to the occasion. We will. We're about to enter one of the most frightening periods of American history. Our country has rarely faced more uncertainty. This is the time for greatness. We have a great leader. We must be a great people backing him, fighting for him, sacrificing for a cause greater than ourselves.

A hundred years from now Obama's portrait will be placed next to that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Long before that we'll be telling our children and grandchildren that we stepped out in faith and voted for a young black man who stood up and led our country back from the brink of an abyss. We'll tell them about the power of love, faith and hope. We'll tell them about the power of creativity combined with humility and intellectual brilliance. We'll tell them that President Obama gave us the gift of regaining our faith in our country. We'll tell them that we all stood up and pitched in and won the day. We'll tell them that President Obama restored our standing in the world. We'll tell them that by the time he left office our schools were on the mend, our economy booming, that we'd become a nation filled with green energy alternatives and were leading the world away from dependence on carbon-based destruction. We'll tell them that because of Pres ident Obama's example and leadership the integrity of the family was restored, divorce rates went down, more fathers took responsibility for their children, and abortion rates fell dramatically as women, families and children were cared for through compassionate social programs that worked. We'll tell them about how the gap closed between the middle class and the super rich, how we won health care for all, how crime rates fell, how bad wars were brought to an honorable conclusion. We'll tell them that when we were attacked again by al Qaeda, how reason prevailed and the response was smart, tough, measured and effective, and our civil rights were protected even in times of crisis...

We'll tell them that we were part of the inexplicably blessed miracle that happened to our country those many years ago in 2008 when a young black man was sent by God, fate or luck to save our country. We'll tell them that it's good to live in America where anything is possible. Yes we will.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.Now in paperback.

Gswede and one of his dearest friends in a state of wonder about something in the Swedish Air!

McCain vs Obama - Sometimes, it's all about the MONEY

Earlier this year, a childhood friend from Pennsylvania told me about his support for Barack Obama. He left no doubt in my mind that he was a firm believer like millions of Americans and practically everyone I encounter in Europe.

After John McCain’s Vice Presidential choice, Sarah Palin took America and the world by storm, I wondered if he was impacted like much of the country so I wrote an email to see if he was still an Obama man. Call it a premonition as I thought his opinion might have been altered; not necessarily because of the public relations brilliance of Palin. When I didn't hear from him promptly as expected, I was left wondering.

Last week, he sent me the following email:

"I was for Obama all the way. But here is my dilemma… he stated he will raise capital gains tax to 30% and more, McCain just said he will lower it to 7.5% - this will impact me directly by $70 to $80 K next year alone - so he is no longer my guy. Let me say that again – I will have to pay $80 K more in taxes next year…on one of my projects alone. That is more than most people make a year. So how could I vote for this guy – and many - many of my friends – by accepting this? My wife and I were for him until last week or so – but now it seems like a re-distribution of wealth. McCain-Palin is the way to go as I see it Now. CHANGE – my mind – or give me a reason better than $80 K why I should change my opinion".

Was I shocked by his abrupt change of heart? No but very surprised.

Was I disappointed by his abrupt change of heart? Yes, although not for his choice of McCain; the disappointment emanated from his "one issue" reason for McCain especially since it seems to be all about the money and less about what is good for America.

Keep in mind that this individual is a good man and dedicated family person who I have known for over 30 years. He is smart, interesting and enjoyable to be around along with having the rare ability to embrace and be comfortable around all types of people. In addition, he has traveled outside of America unlike the vast majority of USA citizens. I was a groomsman at his wedding and his friendship has been and will continue to be important to me.

Below is my open letter to him.

Happy Gswede Sunday!
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Dear Friend:

Whether you vote for Obama or McCain is not the issue but I am disappointed in your approach as money seems to be the fuel for your decision. I realize we must take care of our families first as all good things in life start from a strong family unit. Right now, many families are hurting across America; much more than yours or mine abroad. How they got there is not so important at this point; what is important is this question. "What are we going to do as a nation in this election to help out our fellow citizens"?

You have made your money by being a smart and successful businessman and deserve to earn and keep as much as you can. What you may not know is those capital gains you mention are not so black and white meaning your losses could be less than what you expect. Information about this topic will be forthcoming.

I implore you to think seriously about who will be the best President for America 1st and the World 2nd; then base your decision on elements that support that criteria rather than money. Currently, our country is in a rough situation and could spiral into unimaginable chaos in the coming years. We have already experienced a taste of it in the last few weeks of the financial meltdown and you must feel the pain rampaging through our great country. My heart is heavy in Sweden.

Your life has been a shining example of the American dream and you have lived up to the wonderful values that your mother and father instilled in you including helping others and volunteering. Don't you want the same opportunity for your children? I know very few men as decent and loving as you. And your choice of a wife couldn't have been better! How can you discard all your blessings and base your vote for president on one issue that helps no one but your family?

Here are a few thoughts to ponder on who America needs as its next President:

-- We need a president who is respected AT HOME (America).

-- We need a strategic president who thinks about the issues surrounding America first and foremost followed closely by our neighbors around the world.

-- We need a president who is RESPECTED around the world and can make the AMERICAN BRAND stronger outside of our borders. As an American living abroad, I want cultures throughout the world to respect the leader of our country.

-- We need a president with intellectual or creative curiosity who has the ability to take the issues, think seriously about them and deliver that message to us so we know that careful thought has been applied.

-- We need a confident president who won't be detached or defensive.

-- We need a president who is not afraid to make the tough decision or call his own shots even if they turn out to be wrong.

-- We need a president with sound judgment who can decisively lead by playing a major role in avoiding or steering America through a crisis such as the financial implosion, Iraq war or tragedies like Katrina.

--We need a president who at the very least can be commanding and comforting in a crisis much like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani after September 11.

--We need a president who consistently puts family first, leads our nation, comforts us, inspires us and make us proud.


As you know, the last 8 years have not exactly been kind to America. They may have been good to you, me and most of our friends but far too many of our fellow Americans are in dire straights. They need and deserve our help in electing the best man to lead our nation during this critical period by thinking about the aforementioned criteria or at least more than one issue.

I didn't want my message to be your only input so I shared your words with a close network of friends and readers of my blog (Obama and McCain supporters in America and abroad) and the response was swift and lively. The range of emotions was all over the map including anger, disbelief, not surprised, factual, agreeable, disappointment and calm eloquence. The quality and effort of the emails genuinely moved me and displayed the passion that our Presidential election has inspired.

Below you will find a few of those responses (all Americans) that I hope will give you some food for thought. The first should make an impression as the writer lives a short ten minute drive from your house.

One thing any caring or sincere person should believe is this.....America needs a change or new direction. If you think McCain is that change, vote for him. If you think (like you did previously) Obama is the new direction, vote for him. It is easily one of the most important choices of our lifetime. The choice will always be respected if it is properly evaluated.

And remember, if we make the wrong choice as a nation; that mistake could cost America, its families and the world years upon years of grueling pain and put your family in a position where the money you might lose from capital gains could be the least of your worries.

I wish you and your family well.

Warm Regards,

George
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1st - From Pennsylvania:

It is tempting to base a vote on one criterion. In fact, I would argue most people choose in this way since it's the easiest way to select things when accounting for the multitude of choices takes patience and study. Unfortunately, for the single issue voters of 2000 and 2004, like those who were pro-abortion and liked George Bush, they now have had to face very real second thoughts. For example, how many of those voters sent kids to Iraq only to see them not return? Or how about those who invested heavily in the stock of Washington Mutual or Lehman, only to have their portfolios shrink to nothing? If a more thorough examination of Bush from the perspective of his pre-emptive war view or his anti-regulatory stance had been added to his other views, I suggest his support would have been greatly reduced. Now I know that 80k sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But I would argue that life is more than short term profits and losses. Life is also about the hope for a better future, a more secure retirement, and more affordable health care and higher education costs.

I would argue that the savings they believe they'll yield in capital gains will be more than chewed up if McCain and the Republicans begin taxing health care benefits. If education reform doesn't take hold, and soon, the cost of a secondary education will be unattainable for the majority of Americans. In addition, with borrowing costs going up or worse, not available due to the credit market meltdown, students and families won't even have the chance to go on to college. Make no mistake, college is an investment in the long-term future of America. If you gut this precious American asset, capital gains taxes will be thing of the good old days.

Two ideas at the base of Obama's economic philosophy:

First

Reduce Income Inequality


"For decades, America has been victim to an anti-tax sentiment that has led to tax cuts that favor wealth, not work. And for decades, the gaps in wealth in this country have grown wider, while the costs to working people have increased. This year alone, the average person in the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans will receive more than $55,000 from the Bush tax cuts, while the average person in the bottom 20 percent of Americans will get about $70." Obama Tax Plan

Second

Raise capital gains taxes for fairness, not revenue.

Q: You favor an increase in the capital gains tax, saying, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28%." It's now 15%. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28%. Bill Clinton dropped the capital gains tax to 20%, then George Bush has taken it down to 15%. And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28%, the revenues went down.

A: What I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. The top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year--$29 billion for 50 individuals. Those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That's not fair.

Q: But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.

A: Well, that might happen or it might not. It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary Apr 16, 2008

The final word. Tax policies vary by President. Many of us have benefited handsomely over the past few years from increased stock valuations and real estate transactions that were, it turned out, too good to be true. As Obama stated on April 16, 2008, "it depends (capital gains) on Wall Street and how business is going". For a guy who many suggest is not ready or too green, it's interesting that he could be this much on point six full months before this unfortunate scenario of Wall Street's demise surfaced. Hearing that McCain wants to drop the capital gains rate is nothing more than saying he wants to reduce the tax rates on the top 1%. This has helped America? Clinton raised taxes in 1992 and used the funds to pay down the deficit. This reduced US government borrowing in the capital markets thereby providing money to Main Street for the capital it needed to invest in America. Finally, how many would now say that it was a good thing for America that we were able to flip houses at will only to now find some of the houses we thought we could flip still sitting without buyers and without a prospect for buyers in the near future? Heck, McCain wants to give money to homeowners who are upside down on their mortgages because "the devaluation of their homes is affecting their neighbors." This is a sensible McCain solution? Business is cyclical as is life. Throwing the baby out with the bath water, as your friend suggests he would do with Obama, is too high of a price to pay - even for a few extra dollars.
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2nd - From New York City:

Here is the sad thing about Obama's plan – lowering the capital gains tax rate has added money to the treasury. Raising it will not only effect your friend the way he says, but it will decrease the amount of money to pay for these billions and billions of new obligations.

Why do it one may ask? – because it gets votes from people it doesn't affect – 75% of the population that is always looking to tear down the successful and look for something for nothing.
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3rd - From an American in Sweden:

That's pretty simple. McCain is running off of the "proven" republican ticket but with the current financial crisis at hand there are a few facts that have to be considered:

1. taxes will be raised no matter who is in office.

2. Confidence in the US dollar will improve immediately with Obama taking office due to the resurgence of the American Dream.

3. The Republican "lower taxes policy" has ALWAYS led to worst overall financial situations while the Dems "more taxes and government intervention" has ALWAYS lead to the better times for everyone.

4. McCain has proven his lack of leadership qualities and inability to stay on message mix that with a Democratic congress and you have the perfect mixture for a lame duck -- not to mention he'll lack confidence since the Bradley Effect will be in play if he wins at this stage.

5. Palin brings in yet another round of neoconservatives hell bent on pushing their proven-to-fail agendas which will eventually bog down the White House's ability to lead and god forbid he dies in office...

6. If all else fails higher taxes for a few years compared to the long term effects of a McCain presidency should be the deciding factor for sane people.
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4th - From Maryland:

Sadly, we don't all develop the same way at the same time, or along the same lines. He has been blessed to be able to earn a living at a level which most American's will quite literally NEVER SEE (Amazingly, the same can be said for both you and me). Yet, your friend has become so comfortable in this situation that he seems to be taking it for granted. If it's really just about the money there may be no argument which will convince him that McCain is a bad choice. Money is a strong motivator when you allow yourself to get lost in the pursuit of materialism. But McCain can't be serious or taken seriously when he says he'll cut taxes. We are spending $10,000,000,000 per month on the war in Iraq. We have an $11,000,000,000,000 national debt. Our infrastructure is in disrepair and social security is in jeopardy. We spend the largest portion of our national budget on health care through Medicare and Medicaid, and that percentage is not going to get smaller for at least another 20 years as the last of the baby-boomers hit retirement age. Given our policy shift and McCain's' support of the Bush Doctrine, we'll need to increase defense spending as we gear-up for pre-emptive strikes against anyone we perceive as enemies.

But we are still comfortable at this point and the politicians who are desperate for our votes know we are suckers for comfort. Because comfort feels good and we don't want to change. When some of us get comfortable in our situation we may tend to forget that not every one is similarly situated. We may also feel that those who have not been as fortunate as us are at fault for their situation and perhaps don't deserve our respect, our compassion or our assistance. We may forget the basic tenets we were raised with or the precepts we learned later in life about caring through sharing or about realizing that those to whom much is given, much is expected. We may forget that we are all children of God and as such we are all truly our brothers' keepers. We may forget that we have been blessed to be part of a nation and a society so blessedly abundant.

Recent stats from Dept of Labor and the Census bureau show that in 2007 the median household income was $50.2K. That's for the entire household! By the way, the average household has 1.8 salary earners and 2.3 people in it. You'll see variances in these numbers depending on where you look, but they are all in the same range. The average income for a household in the U.S. in 2007 was $53K. Let that settle in for a moment and think about what it means. Compare that to the $70-$80K your friend may have to pay in taxes. Doesn't that mean he earns at least 3 to 4 times that much in before-taxes base salary? Does that not give you enough to live so comfortably that even while sending two kids to college, you can afford a home in a safe and clean neighborhood? How much does one have to earn to not care about how much one is being taxed? Let me put this another way: Understanding the differences in the candidates, isn't it worth the extra increase in taxes to have our infrastructure and schools refurbished? What about our standing in the world, or the way in which America is perceived? If taxes are cut can we really wage war on two fronts? If we cut taxes, wage simultaneous wars, keep social security afloat, continue to fund Medicare and Medicaid and increase defense spending can we still rebuild our infrastructure while paying more for gas? Do you see the dichotomy in McCain's plans? If we are thinking clearly, can we take anything McCain says seriously? Remember George H.W. Bush's pledge of "Read my lips: No new taxes!?" Remember how his world crumbled when he couldn't deliver that pledge and had to eat his words as he raised taxes?

All of that aside, a vote for Obama should be because he's the better candidate and not because McCain is a daft old man. Obama is asking Americans to step up and make some sacrifices for the good of the nation and for the good of mankind. Our soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen should not have to bear the burden alone. We too can make sacrifices of some sort. $80K in taxes is a small price compared to losing ones' limbs, eyesight or life. We can finally be part of a generation that makes a difference. We can be the generation that finally allows America to live up to her promise. We can be the generation whose grandchildren can honestly feel pride when they read about us in their history textbooks. I want to be a part of the generation that says instead of being a part of history, we made history. I refuse to stand on the sidelines and let McCain cruise into office without a fight. I don't want to have to look my son and grandchildren in the eye and say that when that pivotal moment in history called, I refused to answer. In this election we have two distinct choices: We can look like the generations that blew it during reconstruction and the birth of Jim Crow or we can follow the example of the generations that fought WWII or marched with the freedom fighters of the sixties. I know which side I'm choosing and I don't care about the cost.

Peace and blessings.
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5th - From an American in Sweden:

If it’s just about money etc .... You can tell him this: There are more people without financial and health care means today then ever before since the great depression. The other fact is that McCain's 90% support for Bush policies are a direct result too! I respect a man who does what’s best for his family BUT that won't make a difference in the bigger perspective in a global economy.

If I were him I'd start thinking globally by spreading 30% of my investments out into new markets i.e. emerging economies and realize that at the end of the day there are more people without then there are with livable means. He has the right to vote however he likes but it won't change much because it’s more than likely he will be reversely effected anyways!
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6th - From Massachusetts:

Ask him how much he's going to make when we're at war with three or four different countries, people are in the streets without a pot to piss in, and his assets investments are vaporating. How much will he make from his projects, then? Your friend is looking at the small picture just like the banks, investment firms and Bush did. He's about getting his. He was never for Barack, he was for himself. The sooner you and he admit that, the clearer your friendship will be.

Sorry to be so harsh, but at a time when the greed of a few have touched the lives of so many who simply go to work and do the best they can within the parameters of moral fortitude, it's hard to hear some self-centered, short-sighted, (I'll refrain from what I want to call him because he's a friend of yours) person rationalize that he'll vote for a candidate who's straight-up admitting he has no clue how to fix the economy because he's potentially gonna save some money despite the fact that it would devastate the country as a whole.

That's just unbelievable to me, G.
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7th - From an American in Sweden:

Don't think I can help. If he's a one issue voter, and less capital gains tax is his issue, then the R's are right. If he thinks the government should pay for wars, social security, national security, crime fighting, disaster relief, etc., then he should consider the Democrats, who in recent history have proven to be the more fiscally responsible party, while still funding critical government services. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization."
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8th - From New York City:

G,

First, I love challenges like this. How I started to go about tackling this issue is to find out one thing: What are the facts?

Your friend's statement demonstrates a wild disparity in the figures 30% vs. 7.5%. This incurs some suspicion.

Firstly, directly from the IRS, here are the facts:

The first diagram shows that in 2006 only 12.9% of all tax returns produced capital gains.

The second diagram shows distribution of capital gains across the entire income spectrum in 2006.

The third diagram shows who would pay the most should capital gains increase. Basically more than $8 in $10 in capital gains goes to those making more than $200,000 year - these are the people who acquire the most capital gains income.

I don't know where your friend's numbers come from, but I'll assume that they are generated from Obama's proposed highest (which includes no deductions), versus McCains calculated lowest number (that person at the $200,000 income with all possible deductions).

Now, here's the kicker. Below info (click on link) cited from Wikipedia sourced from the IRS.

Capital gains tax in the United States

Year 2008 income brackets and tax rates

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_gains_tax_in_the_United_States

Short-term capital gains are taxed as ordinary income rates as listed above. Long-term capital gains have lower rates corresponding to an individual's marginal ordinary income tax rate, with special rates for a variety of capital goods.

So, as you can see, the capital gains tax is already above 30% under the George W. Bush administration in both Short and Long Term Capital Gains!

Both Candidates use the current capital gains figure of 15% but that's the figure for middle income. In other words under the McCain to cut capital gains (more accurately from 15% to 7.5%), we would take the table and slide it down below the bottom rate (currently 10%). If we subtract the difference of 2.5% (keep in mind the other tables above - the proportions will be the same) we get a McCain real tax decrease to 32.5% for the top bracket.

So, my conclusion base upon the facts are this:

If you make more than single and make more than $357,000 the max you'll save 2.5% before deductions under McCain's plan.

Since there are a gazillion types of taxes that the treasury collects, Capital gains should not be the only tax increase/decrease to be concerned with. I have attached a link to the following graphic from the Washington Post comparing the two tax plans base on family income.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/06/09/ST2008060900950.html


An interesting statue of contemplation (an admirable trait in any leader) in the small town of Borås, Sweden