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Bring Our Stories To the Oval Office

New America Media, Video, Reporter & Producer: Odette Keeley / Videographer & Editor: Min Lee Posted: Feb 16, 2009

EDITORS NOTE: During Pres. Obamas inauguration on Jan. 20, some ethnic media and international journalists saw a unique connection with Americas new commander-in-chief, either with regard to their own homeland history or their struggles as minorities. They shared with New America Now anchor and producer Odette Keeley what they hope to see in the Obama era.

WASHINGTON, D.C. The commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincolns birth and the legacy of his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which helped end slavery, was a fitting theme for the inauguration of the countrys first African-American president, Barack Obama. Lincolns stirring words, particularly those from the Gettysburg Address: that this nation under God, shall have a new birth of freedom --- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth, were woven throughout the Obama inauguration ceremonies.

In a previous statement by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies [JCCIC], committee chairperson Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, On January 20, as President-elect Obama takes the oath of office, he will look across the National Mall toward Lincoln Memorial, where many of the sixteenth presidents immortal words are inscribed. Although some inaugural traditions have changed since Lincolns time, the swearing-in ceremony continues to symbolize the ideals of renewal, continuity and unity that he so often expressed.

The committee also cited another clear relevance of Lincoln to last months event. At Lincolns second inauguration in 1865, African Americans were allowed to participate in the parade for the very first time.

The weight of Americas history was not lost on some ethnic media and international journalists who covered Pres. Obamas inauguration. Many of them are keeping a close eye on the Obama era through the lens of their communities most pressing issues and the historical connections they see in his bi-racial background.

Tom Castro, founder of Border Media Partners, the countrys largest privately owned Hispanic radio network, which reaches one in five Latino listeners in the United States, saw Pres. Obamas inauguration as a model for countries that have undergone turbulent elections. Castro said the role of Spanish-language media and all ethnic media in this new America --- with a president whose father was an immigrant, a president who is bi-racial himself --- is to interpret our new American reality for our listeners, our viewers, our readers, many of whom arent that familiar with our way of government Its a unique thing when you can get up there and have a change of power, and no bullets are flying.

Bullets have flown in many elections in the Philippines, where reportedly more than 130 were killed in the last national elections in 2007. But more than twenty years ago, Filipinos also showed the world what a peaceful revolution could achieve.

Charie Villa, head of newsgathering for ABS-CBN Channel 2, one of the Philippines biggest broadcasting networks, and also the parent company to the U.S.-based TV network ABS-CBN Global - The Filipino Channel, attended both the Philippine Embassy Inaugural reception and the inaugural free concert at Lincoln Memorial. She saw the almost one million Americans gathered at that concert as strikingly similar to the three million unarmed Filipinos during the Philippines 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

That massive and peaceful demonstration ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos and put Cory Aquino in power. Its good that theres euphoria and Pres. Obama inspires them now, but they [Americans] should be vigilant, Villa said. We had our chance before when we overthrew the dictatorship, but we didnt quite work on it, so everything remained the same. We hope this doesnt happen to America because everyones looking up to it, as a role model for all of us.

Veni Markovski, a Bulgarian blogger based in New York, was looking at recent history when he covered the inauguration. He reads and dissects news from Bulgarian media for his blog, VENI.com,. While Markovski wrote that he believes that Obama will able to do what hes promising to do, he said this country had a positive view and relationship with former Pres. George W. Bush.

Markovski thinks the good relations between his homeland and the United States will continue under Obamas leadership. He cited his appreciation for then Sen. Obamas knowledge of Bulgaria during Obamas remarks last April 9, 2008, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing of several ambassadorial nominees, including the current U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria Nancy McEldowney.

Washington Afros senior political reporter James Wright is confident that Obamas personal history will make a big difference when it comes to foreign policy.

The Afro-American Newspaper Group is one of the countrys oldest family-owned black newspapers in the United States.

The most interesting thing of the whole Obama phenomenon is how it has brought different types of people together," Wright said. "I think Barack Obama, because he has a bi-racial background he grew up in Hawaii, he spent some time in Indonesiahe hasnt been around just black people, he hasnt been around just white people, or Asians this is a man who understands people, because he has been around a whole group of different people all his life.

Border Media Partners Tom Castro sees this unique connection among Hispanic Americans and the new president. I think that theyll find in him a new and young person, who they can identify with as an immigrant, as someone who has lived outside of America," Castro said. "I think Latinos who listen to Spanish-language radio will see in him someone very different from prior presidents, not just George W. Bush.

Wright has written several reports on what the African-American community wants Obama to focus on, and at the top is jobs. When you talk to African Americans whether its Magic Johnson or Bob Johnson or Little Johnson on the street, they talk about jobs," said Wright "Whether its getting a job, or keeping the job, or getting a better job or higher pay. He will focus on this, but we in the African-American community have a responsibility, too, to make sure that he focuses on jobs.

For Filipino Americans, two of their most pressing issues are equity for Filipino WW II veterans and immigration reform. According to Washington D.C.based Fil-Am media columnist and community leader Bing Branigin, the vets "are dyingI know theres a big economic problem going on, but please, even for just a few millions for our Filipino brothers, to our grandfathers who gave so much. She adds that Filipinos are also eagerly looking forward to a more beneficial immigration reform bill. Especially for Filipinos, its the family reunification aspect, Branigin said.

Like Branigin, Momar Visaya, editor-in-chief of Asian Journal, who's based in the paper's New York bureau, is hopeful that Obama will listen to their concerns, especially since they have shown heightened engagement during last years elections. Its basically echoing the slogan, Yes, We CanYes, the Filipino Can," Visaya said. "With the election we proved somehow that we are there.

And in their homeland, Filipinos echo the sentiments of many nations looking at Americas new leadership. I think the difference is this president listens to people. I know that he listens to Americans, ordinary Americans," said Charie Villa. "He said that its very important that he brings stories of ordinary Americans to his Oval Office. I hope that he also brings the stories of other citizens of the world to the Oval Office whenever he makes a decision.

Odette Keeley hosts and produces video for New America Media's TV program on COMCAST ON DEMAND,"New America Now." Min Lee is a video producer for YO! and NAM. Laurie Simmons is a production assistant for NAM and helped with this report.

Related Articles:

Yes We Came, And Yes We Will!

The Presidential Inauguration and Hopes for a New Era

The McIntyre Report

Ethnic Media Cover Inauguration Day

Ethnic Media Voices Weigh in on Obama Administration

Inauguration Inspires Hopes and Dreams

Filipinos Celebrate Inaugural, Ask Obama For Veterans Equity

The Promise of Change Starts from Within

Our Man Obama -- The Post-Imperial Presidency

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