Rockstar Politics Must be Careful Not to Go Off-Tune
- Cheryl Mariani
- Jan 22, 2009
- Burlington County Times
Barack Obama has been criticized for allowing his celebrity appeal to trump policy issues during his struggle for the presidency, but it is exactly Obama’s “rock star” status which will save the world.
To focus on Obama’s image is not a shallow discussion. In fact, I believe that his image can and has produced real, positive results. Besides winning him the election, Obama’s star-like quality will prove an effective tool in areas like youth involvement, building economic confidence, and international relations.
Granted, the Obama mania can seem a tad ridiculous at times. Walk into any Metro station in Washington, D.C., and you’ll be bombarded with store after store of Obama T-shirts, ties, bobble-heads, and candy bars. His life-size cardboard cutout stands outside each of these shops, smiling, as if to say “thanks for buying into the hype – I never could have won without my screaming fangirls and naïve young voters.”
But we must look past this cynicism embedded in our nature, and realize that this is all really a good sign.
Americans have a need for role models, so we naturally look to celebrities, like Angelina Jolie and Will Smith. Shouldn’t we rejoice that our jaded society can finally look to its president with the same respect and admiration?
It’s difficult to see how critics can attack Obama’s celebrity image at the very moment when our nation so desperately needs a leader they can trust and rally behind. Americans have a need for role models, so we naturally look to celebrities, like Angelina Jolie and Will Smith. Shouldn’t we rejoice that our jaded society can finally look to its president with the same respect and admiration?
In times like these, a little optimism is a more precious commodity than oil.
As a college student and excited first-time voter, I saw firsthand the effect Obama’s charm had on young people. Where some families huddle intently around their televisions for the Super Bowl, I found myself crowded just as attentively into a dorm room with my friends to watch the election results, argue politics, and joke with the one guy there who voted for John McCain.
The election produced a record turnout of young voters, and, according to MSNBC, 68 percent of these voters preferred Obama. But the important thing isn’t just that Obama inspired us to vote for him; his celebrity motivated young people to campaign and become more involved in the political process as a whole.
In Obama’s case, there’s no such thing as “false hope”, especially since the very idea that the youth now actually have hope is a good sign for the future.
This is especially true for the economy. Obama’s even temperament and powerful speeches obviously cannot fix the economy, but his words can at least prevent the most disastrous circumstance: panic. For our economic situation to improve, people must have confidence in their government. Obama has used his charisma to provide the same assuring messages Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to the public during another time of economic distress. Whether seemingly presumptuous or not, Obama’s YouTube twist on Roosevelt’s fireside chats proves that Obama is definitely an “image we can believe in.”
As an International Studies major, I also see the strength of our economy as directly related to our global ties, making it essential that our leader present a positive image to not just our own nation, but the rest of the world. In choosing a president, we’re picking how we want to be viewed as a people.
Of course, in perfect rock star fashion, Obama is an international sensation. According to a BBC poll of 22 countries, all preferred that America be led by Obama over McCain.
So, after the inauguration, I will remember Obama’s swearing-in with the knowledge that the entire world is watching, and waiting, for our rock star’s next great performance.
Cheryl Mariani is a sophomore from Delran, N.J. at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa.