A test for Obama

Published 4:06 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Most presidents have a long agenda of things they would like to accomplish while they are in office.

President Obama came into office with a longer list than most. They have a vision molded by their natural passions and interests, refined by the issues of the day, and then solidified by the polls and politics at the time of their election.

By the time they are elected, I am sure most presidents have thoughts about what they can accomplish, what they can change, and perhaps even a glimpse of what they hope to leave behind as their legacy.

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The truth is that legacies are mostly determined by events beyond the president’s control. In many cases, the defining events weren’t even on the political radar screen in the early days of the presidency.

The Obama Administration has had much of its political capital used in areas that it did not anticipate, primarily in dealing with the massive economic issues. However, the first real unanticipated test of the administration could very well be dealing with the Swine Flu issue, which has dominated the news in the last few days.

Like 9/11, no one saw this coming. Despite repeated warnings that something like this could occur, it has been years since there has been a serious outbreak of Swine or Avian Flu. In fact, my daughter, Catherine, was in Hong Kong when the SARS epidemic hit that city and caused such a scare around the world.

The jury is still out on whether this can be the pandemic that has been so feared. Perhaps the virus will mutate itself into a harmless bug. It already appears that existing medicines are effective in battling this flu. Although more than 150 people have already died in Mexico, there have been no fatalities in this country.

This is one of the first big tests of the Obama presidency. It appears the government is handling this crisis quickly and efficiently. They are keeping the public informed without pushing the panic button. If, however, this turns out to be a true pandemic, then the rules of leadership will change.

This is one of the things only the government can handle on a national scale. If the Mexican flu escalates beyond the level of the past, the public will be looking to trust the leadership to do the right thing and keep the people informed.

Good for Stafford

Congratulations to Matthew Stafford for being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. This is the first No. 1 pick from UGA since 1953. Harry Babcock was selected as an offensive end for the 49ers. He played three seasons and gained 181 years on 16 receptions.

While there are many Bulldogs that are sorry to see Stafford go, there are many others in the SEC (Auburn included) happy to see him move on.

Despite my happiness for Stafford personally, I can’t help but feel a little irony about a rookie signing a contract for $41 million in the city with the highest unemployment rate in nation. Even that can swell to more than $78 million if certain performance criteria are met.

We have spent most of the past year listening to Congress and the media scream about CEO’s of major corporations making multimillion-dollar salaries and bonuses. Is it really fair to condemn corporate America while celebrating the good fortune of a 21-year-old athlete?

Perhaps they aren’t the same thing. In any case, so many things could have prevented Stafford’s ascent to the top of the college ranks. He was born with great athletic ability, grew up with good coaching, played for a great college program and had the good fortune to remain healthy. Along with that he had a good head and a good heart.

Good for him. Whether a player should receive this much money or not, it is nice to see one of the good guys hit the lottery. If he can turn around Detroit, then he will have probably earned every penny. If he doesn’t, well at least he won’t beat Auburn again this year.

Almost seeing everything

Timing can often color whether you are glad to hear news or not. Just after flying nonstop across the country for the past three weeks, I find out that there were 50 incidents between birds and jets at the Atlanta airport last year. Glad I usually fall asleep before the plane takes off.

The same day I got the news that Mary Lou, Ernest, Karen and I would be taking a Mediterranean cruise; pirates attacked a cruise ship destined for Italy. Pirates!! Who would believe that piracy on the high seas would be one of the fastest growth industries in the world?

I guess we all want more excitement in our lives, but I would just as soon get it some other way.

Although it has been many years since I seriously backpacked or hiked, it was once a very big part of my life. In many ways, it gave me confidence that I could do anything. It gave me a chance to slow down, listen to nature, get in touch with myself, and think about the future.

I often say that it was the greatest gift Mary Lou ever gave me; the encouragement to hike for weeks at a time because she knew it was something I needed to do and that would be good for me.

Obviously hiking has changed a bit, a least in Switzerland. It seems that voters in a province in the Swiss Alps have passed legislation that will ban hiking naked. I will admit that I saw a lot of strange things while hiking, including two men who only would hike at night. But hiking naked, well it just never crossed my mind.

First, you would think it would be a bit chilly in the Alps to be hiking without any clothes. If the higher altitude chill didn’t put goose bumps on your skin, just think about the burn you could get from being that much closer to the sun.

Second, I can only imagine hiking naked along the Appalachian Trail where I did most of my hiking. These back-to-nature types obviously never hiked through one of the briar patches that frequent the trail in late summer. And the chiggers would certainly have a field day with all that unprotected skin.

I was always told that boots were your most important clothing, but I never considered they could be your only clothing. Like my Granddaddy used to say, if you live long enough you’ll see everything.