Susan Neiman on President Obama

Question: Why is Obama the best choice for President?

Neiman:  I’m trying to think of a short answer to that question because when I began writing this book I--  Actually, I’d had the--  The word “grown-up idealist” is a word that had occurred to me for a long time in thinking about Kant and indeed in teaching Kant. I’ve been teaching Kant now--wow, gosh, let’s see--for nearly 20 years on and off so when I was teaching Kant at Yale I used the word “grown-up idealist” to describe Kant’s view as I’ve explained it to you. Barack Obama is the first politician that I have ever come across who I genuinely think has an eye for both the way things are and the way that things should be. I think he embodies the American dream in a way that we have not ever seen in a way that embodies both the immigrant dream, a sense of perspective about the rest of the world, combined with a genuine appreciation of the American dream. And I think he’s absolutely brilliant. What convinced me about Barack Obama was actually his first book, Dreams From My Father, and- which is a book that I’ve been recommending to people who then walk away saying, “You know what. Even if he’s not--  Even if he doesn’t become President, this is such a good book.”  Anyone would have been proud to have written it. It’s subtle, it’s reflective, it’s self-reflective, it’s self-critical, it’s observant and it’s poetic, all of which are- reveal a sense of character that I think we’ll all be proud to have in our next President. And a final point that I have not seen anybody raise about Obama is the following:  Obama really does represent the triumph of the civil rights movement. There is racism in this country; there is no question. We’ve also seen it in the election and electing Barack Obama will not get rid of it although it will be a giant step forward. I think one reason why so many people of all ages are being inspired by Barack Obama is that the civil rights movement really is a moment that Americans--in our recent history--that Americans can be genuinely proud of. It was a genuine moral- morally political movement with all of its frailties. I just saw a terrific play called The Good Negro downtown which talks about the frailties and the infighting and all of the things that happened in the civil rights movement and yet it was a unique moment. We don’t have an instance of that in other countries. You have countries throwing off colonialism but you don’t have a moment in which a country looked at its own ideals and said, “Hey, we’re not living up to them and it may be bloody and painful and hard and reluctant but we’re going to change because we know that we’re not living up to the standards that we set to ourselves.” And I think a sense that this is a- this is- this crystalizes something in America to be proud of again is perhaps what Michelle Obama meant with her slightly misspoken comments that I completely understand. When my own teenagers who look at politics completely skeptically up to now see an interview with him on television and come to me and have been making fun of the grownups for being excited for a while, “Ma, I get it. He’s for real and if he’s elected it will change the world.”  And I have to say Barack Obama has made America an offer we shouldn’t refuse.

Susan Neiman on Immanuel Kant and the grown-up idealist

Live on Monday: Does the US need one billion people?

What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.

Ultracold gas exhibits bizarre quantum behavior

New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.

Credit: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • Experiments on an ultracold gas show strange quantum behavior.
  • The observations point to applications in quantum computing.
  • The find may also advance chaos theory and explain the butterfly effect.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

    Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.

    Big Think LIVE

    Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.

    Keep reading Show less

    3 cognitive biases perpetuating racism at work — and how to overcome them

    Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."

    Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
    Personal Growth

    Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.

    Keep reading Show less

    A new minimoon is headed towards Earth, and it’s not natural

    Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.

    Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Paitoon Pornsuksomboon/Shutterstock/Big Think
    Surprising Science
  • Small objects such as asteroids get trapped for a time in Earth orbit, becoming "minimoons."
  • Minimoons are typically asteroids, but this one is something else.
  • The new minimoon may be part of an old rocket from the 1960s.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

    Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.

    Photo: Lightspring / Shutterstock
    Mind & Brain
    • A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
    • Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
    • An estimated 7.1 million Americans over the age of 65 will suffer from Alzheimer's by 2025.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast