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Ethnic Media Answer Obama's Call for 'Remaking America'

New America Media, News Feature, NAM Editors Posted: Jan 20, 2009

Editor's Note: In his inaugural speech, Pres. Barack Obama gave a sober but optimistic account of the challenges facing the United States as he takes office as the 44th president. He declared, "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America." NAM editors asked ethnic media journalists around the country about their views of Obamas speech and his call to remake America.

Vy Truong Gia, editor-in-chief, Viet Tribune, San Jose, Calif.
I was very happy to see a person of color become president. I watched [the inauguration] and thought, America really is the land of the free. Im a Vietnamese American and I feel proud. His speech reminds me of [Pres. John F.] Kennedy when he said, Dont ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Vietnamese Americans of the first generation know what America has done for us. We were refugees, boat people, and America opened its arms to welcome us. Now, Obama asked us to partake in rebuilding America, and I know Vietnamese Americans all hear his plea, because it doesnt matter if we are Republicans or Democrats, we love America. We are patriotic. I talked to many Vietnamese - older generation, people who fought in the Vietnam War - who voted for McCain but they celebrated the inauguration today. They welcomed Obama.

For my part, I will continue what I do provide information and fair news coverage for the community, fundraise to help with issues of human trafficking, and encourage the Vietnamese community to participate in civic duties through my paper.

Garry Pierre-Pierre, publisher/editor, the Haitian Times, Brooklyn, NY
Economically, we're down and we have to pick ourselves up, and it's
not going to take only him. All of us will have to participate in order for this to succeed. It's Obama's version of Pres. Kennedy's 'ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' We all have to get this done.

Pilar Marrero, political editor and columnist, La Opinin, Los Angeles, Calif.
Remaking America is what Obama and all of us are called to do, after years of decay, the rule of fear and incompetence. It shows the enormity of the challenge he and all of us face now. It also could be interpreted as a recognition that America is badly hurt in many respects, that people who have always "made America," native born or immigrant, need to be given the chance to move forward with their lives and excel in a country that embraces them and appreciates their effort.

Boyd Fung, Sing Tao, San Francisco, Calif.,
Our understanding of President Obama's "re-making of America" contains
the following elements: re-constructing the economy of the U.S., lifting it from economic recession and turning it into a healthy one; eliminating racial discrimination as much as possible bringing back the traditional values of Amercians, like hard-working,honesty, creativity etc.

Edwin Buggage, editor-in-chief, New Orleans Data News Weekly, New Orleans, LA
When it comes to the idea of remaking America, as far as our readers are concerned, it has special significance for us because of what happened to us during Hurricane Katrina, with so many people still being away from home. His speech, for us, was a ray of hope that America will in fact be what America should be. The fact he's the first African American is significant because it gives people a sense of the right to aspire. But for us, it goes deeper. It's about rebuilding, renewing and reviving our city

After Katrina, a lot of people had to remake their lives. A lot of people have coped with, and are in the process of coping with remaking their lives. We are remaking our lives in the midst of the remaking of America. It's a circle within a circle. On the local level, there are a lot of things that need to be rebuilt in New Orleans. We are starting almost from scratch-- so the idea of rebuilding is very real. I see nothing but positivity ahead.

Duane Beyal, editor, Najavo Times, Window Rock, Ariz.
For Navajos, the "remaking of America" would mean starting from ground zero, because there are so many needs that need work. There are so many things we've tried to take to Congress and to the national leaders without success for decades now. Most people would say the treaties don't mean anything. But our leaders signed it, the U.S. signed it, and we're trying to make them live up to what they signed. That's why Obama is looked at so positively by the Navajo people. We've seen presidents come and go, but he is not like them. Firstly, he's not a rich white man. Also, he has also promised change, and that's what the Navajo people are looking at.

Alejandro Manrique, executive editor, QuePasa.com, Winston-Salem, NC
You have to be aware that this is the usual rhetoric used on inauguration events. More than words, what matters is action.

Remaking America means a dramatic change on policies. On energy: from drill baby drill to explore new sources of alternative and sustainable energy. On Iraq: from a preemptive and unjust occupation to a self-rule by Iraq's people. On international policy: from meetings with preconditions, hostility and war actions to direct diplomacy. On homeland security: a more intensive and continuous effort to hunt al-Qaeda, closing Guantanamo and restoring civility, the rule of law, and the exercise of fundamental rights. On health: restoring health programs that were denied under the Bush Administration and working universal coverage. On education: ending the No Child Left Behind program of teachers working with kids just to pass state and federal exams.

Nam Nguyen, publisher, Calitoday, San Jose, Calif.
To appreciate Obamas inauguration speech, you have to appreciate the desperate time we are living in. America is in crisis. We are at war. Our economy is on the verge of collapsing. To hear Obama is to be injected with a dose of reviving elixir. People called into our office and cried because they were so moved.

We need to deal with three things. The first is a cure for the collective malaise and lack of confidence of the American people. We need to revive our image overseas. And last but not least, we need to deal with the economy. When Obama gave his speech and said its time to remake America, he is sending us toward a path of recovery. He is reviving the spirit of the American people. He has their trust and good will. If theres no remaking, theres no America.

For Vietnamese Americans, we see this as an opportunity. Why? When we came here, we were refugees. We werent in a position to help much. We were, back then, at the receiving end. But not anymore. We are now at the delivering end. Three decades later, the Vietnamese American community is a thriving community. We are part of the American fabric. We are happy to be taking part of the remaking of America, to be part of history. It is our duty.

Rob Eshman, editor, the Jewish Journal, Los Angeles, Calif.
[Remaking America] means two things. One is to be open to change and to take an active role in that change. For the Jewish community, that resonates deeply, since for Jews taking responsibility for oneself and for the larger society has long been a Jewish value.

Obama was saying, 'We're all in this together,' and much as we're concerned with our own tribe or religion, Obama's idea is that we must react beyond ourselves, even to those we're antagonistic to. It's not just about sitting around the campfire together, singing Kumbaya, it's about making difficult choices to compromise.

Ashfaque Swapan, reporter, India-West, San Leandro, Calif.
Obama, as always, was inspiring and drew up a lofty vision. But, at the same time, he wasn't terribly specific, so it ends up pleasing everyone. George Bush never asked the people of America to give something back. Obama is doing that. He's making it clear that people need to be engaged, need to chip in and that nothing is free. The South Asian community warmed to him, even the first generation Indian Americans who initially supported Hillary Clinton.

Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, executive editor, El Diario/La Prensa, New York, NY
History is not static. Society is not a still life. We are making and remaking ourselves and our communities every day. The passage [in Obamas speech] is a recognition, I think, of the transformative power of working families and the daily reality of diversity and renewal of grassroots America.

Kenji G. Taguma, editor, Nichi Bei Times, San Francisco, Calif.
Pres. Obamas inaugural speech, for those of us who were too young to witness Pres. Kennedys landmark speech asking us what we could do for our country, was truly a historical moment. It was a challenge for us to take our share in the responsibility for rebuilding our nation.

Pres. Obama said, In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. In 1942, the greatness of this nation was severely in doubt, as due to a failure of political leadership and racial prejudice, the United States imprisoned some 120,000 persons of Japanese descent, most of whom were American citizens, in American concentration camps. Last year, the Japanese American community commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which led to redress and reparations for this dark chapter of American history. Japanese Americans across the country fought for redress, which led, in part, to the restoration of faith in a nation which acknowledges its mistakes, and atones for it. This is an example of how we as a community can help restore a countrys greatness, and in this spirit, Japanese Americans are surely to be engaged in this current remaking process.

Alfredo Carbajal-Madrid, editor-in-chief, Al Da, Dallas, Tex.
On this part of his speech, Obama is trying to rally minorities and special interest groups towards a common objective under the theme of remaking America." I suspect Obama will continue to make this appeal, asking individuals and groups to dust themselves off and turn words into action. His plea is about shared responsibilities of all Americans.

Osama Siblani, publisher, Arab American News, Dearborn, MI
Obama's speech was very good and I was very relieved. This is an end of the Bush Doctrine, a new direction for America. We supported George Bush eight years ago, hoping that he'd make change. Obama did not use the same rhetoric as George W. Bush. Obama is reaching out to the world, to spread freedom, justice, equality.

There are over 3 million Arab Americans and no one should be outside Obama's change. We voted, we believed, he included us, and he appointed an Arab American in his administration: Ray Lahood [secretary of transportation]. We need to be involved. Barack Obama understands the value of this community. He has friends in this community, and has always been in touch with this community.
We can't sit back. This is the right time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. He only made it because of people like us. It is our duty to organize, to get our message to the public, to help Obama with his vision of change. He cannot do it alone.

Loris Taylor, executive director, Native Public Media, Flagstaff, Ariz.
I felt like Obama was speaking directly to me, saying, I am the president of the United States but the work is ours - it belongs to all of us and in order for us to change the direction of the country, we have to dust off ourselves and pull ourselves up and make those changes. It's not going to happen just because Obama has been elected into office. It's going to take all of us to make a difference in the future. Native Americans have moved beyond being invisible under Pres. Obama's direction. During the campaign, Obama reached out to Native Americans across the country and came on to a couple reservations with Native leaders and community members. He listened to the major challenges and issues within the Indian Country. This notion of inclusion was there from the start of the campaign. In the past, when people talked about people of color, they mentioned African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and we were boxed into the "other" category. We've moved beyond that. Now when people talk about inclusion, they include Native Americans as well.

Emil Guillermo, columnist, Asianweek.com, San Francisco, Calif.
Obama is setting us up for what we have to do--the contemporary New Deal. It's going to be hard, he's preparing us for that hardness. People have to get ready for a long hard drive. Look at what we have to do: He's talking about building infrastructure, building roads and buildings, stuff that makes the electric grid more efficient. The speech means different things to different people, depending on their political experiences. This is an inclusive moment for Asian Americans. If people are reading between the lines, they saw themselves in that passage of Obama's speech. For Asian Americans involved with the Civil Rights Movement in the '60s, it signals a different kind of ethnic politics. When Barack Obama mentions "grievances," he's really talking about not just Asian Americans, but minorities. It's a different kind of politics -- grievances as something people are just going to have to get over. People have things they cannot overlook. So, some challenges were set forth this morning.

Related Articles:

Ethnic Media Cover Inauguration Day

Ethnic Media Voices Weigh in on Obama Administration

Inauguration Inspires Hopes and Dreams

The Promise of Change Starts from Within

Our Man Obama -- The Post-Imperial Presidency

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