Living for the City

President Obama took his case for an $800 billion economic recovery package to one of the most distressed places in America on Monday as he opened a series of campaign-style events intended to press Congress to approve the plan by week’s end.
– At Town Hall Rally, Obama Pushes Stimulus Plan from the New York Times

I gotta admit that when I first read that opening passage I thought Obama was up in the Bronx and following in the footsteps of formers Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Clinton. (Brief aside: Are the Bushes scared of the BX? One has to wonder.)

Let’s put my Bronx pride to the side for a second and ponder on President Obama’s Urban Policy.

As a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, President Obama learned firsthand that urban poverty is more than just a function of not having enough in your pocketbook. It’s also a matter of where you live — in some of our inner-city neighborhoods, poverty is difficult to escape because it’s isolating and it’s everywhere. Our job across America is to create communities of choice, not of destiny, and create conditions for neighborhoods where the odds are not stacked against the people who live there. President Obama is committed to leading a new federal approach to America’s high-poverty areas, an approach that facilitates the economic integration of families and communities with efforts to support the current low-income residents of those areas.
– Opening to President Obama’s Urban Policy

The list that Obama’s team has put together gets it right when it comes to most of the factors in modern urban living. The only beef I have is that the Crime and Law Enforcement subsection doesn’t make any mention of funding community organization to help curtail gang violence (Note Luis J. Rodriguez’s Community-Based Gang Intervention Model). Otherwise, it feels like urban development and growth is getting some proper consideration in the overall outlook of the Nation.

This isn’t to say that any of these steps will be followed through but I also never thought that a President could get so animated about getting a domestic policy followed through with the kind of fervor you see on this video. Not only does Obama mention food stamps (Hail the Purple Five!) but you also get the feeling he is so close to saying: Don’t fuck with me, I’m the God Damn President… now get this shit passed!

Patricia Smith for Inaugural Poet

I just nominated Patricia Smith for Inaugural Poet and I hope you do the same.

You can peep over Ms Smith’s bio page to see her very impressive writing and performance credentials. But in my mind, what really distinguishes Patricia over any other candidate and makes her the best choice for Inaugural Poet is her love for the people and ideals of Chicago, the President-elect’s home base. Chi-town, represent!

You can nominate Patricia (or your favorite poet) over at the Office of the President-elect’s official website contact page.

[Mad props to Emily for coming up with the idea first in her blog.]

It ain’t hard to tell, I excel, then prevail

Originally uploaded by Ferg

I’m loving the reports of the President-elect walking around with a copy of Derek Walcott’s Collected Poems.

I wonder what’s next: Poetry readings in the China Room? Slam in the West Wing? Haiku writing in the Rose Garden?

More facts about Obama (including his status as award-winning spoken word artist!) can be found at Fifty things you might not know about Barack Obama but here are some of the quick literary bits:

• He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics

• He won a Grammy in 2006 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams From My Father

• He has read every Harry Potter book

• His favourite book is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

• He and Michelle made $4.2 million (£2.7 million) last year, with much coming from sales of his books

• He repaid his student loan only four years ago after signing his book deal.

You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.

President-elect Obama’s first press conference shows a change from sweeping reform ideas to concrete legislative solutions. His tone is sharper and swifter but he still finds a way to interject humor in the appropriate places.

I saw a used copy of The Audacity of Hope last night and commented to Barb, “I bet this is gonna be required text for high schoolers real soon.” And along with that I’ll also wager that his speaking style and cadence will find it’s way into the collective unconscious of open micers, to slammers, to protest work, to political poets, to general readings. Since I haven’t been to many open mics or slams this could already be happening.

It’ll be interesting to see how he transitions into his new “prose” style of speaking for matters of Presidential action and if there will be any change in his “poetry” voice for State of the Union addresses.