Salt Lake residents share perspectives on President Obama’s terms

Story and photo by RENEE ESTRADA

Could you imagine millions of people criticizing the decisions you make? Imagine millions of people weighing in on what you ate for breakfast, the clothes you chose to wear, and the car you drive.

In some respects this is what happens to the president, every day. Millions of people critique his decisions, speeches and beliefs. It is safe to say it is an exhausting position.

As if being judged by millions of Americans wasn’t difficult enough, he has the added pressure of representing a large minority group. According to the 2010 Census, African Americans make up 13.2 percent of the US population.

On Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, President Barack Obama was inaugurated into his second presidential term. There he promised to continue to lead the US, despite the exhausting nature of being the president. While the second term is often referred to as the “legacy term,” Obama’s second inauguration makes Americans reflect on the past four years and consider what may happen in the next four years to come.

In Utah, which is an overwhelmingly red state, African Americans make up a mere 1.3 percent of the total population. So would African Americans and other Salt Lake City residents here be proud, disappointed, or indifferent about Obama’s first term and the years to come?

Kendra Arado, who is African American, is a junior studying stage management at the University of Utah. She volunteered on the 2008 Obama campaign before she was even eligible to vote.

“Of all of his accomplishments, I am most proud of his work on health care. The Affordable Care Act will benefit the lives of millions of Americans. I think that will truly be his legacy,” Arado said.

Bridges

Bridges, an Obama supporter, studying at her home.

Zoey Bridges, also African American, is a junior studying biology at the U. Bridges also volunteered on the Obama campaign this year. She felt this election was going to be much closer than the 2008 election and decided to help out. She too is most proud of Obama’s work on health care.

“His work on health care is incredible,” Bridges said. “I am so proud of that achievement because it directly affects me. My sister, who is a diabetic, will be able to get the coverage and care she needs … and that’s just amazing.”

Kurt Bagley, a U alumnus who is white, was a field director on the Obama 2012 campaign. He echoed Bridges’ sentiments.

“Obama’s biggest accomplishment during his first term was passing comprehensive health reform,”  Bagley said. “Had President Obama not been able to pass this bill, it could have been a decade or longer for any other legislation to come about and the country would have missed the opportunity to address health care.”

Americans, regardless of political affiliation, have worries and concerns about the president. Everyone hopes that he will steadfastly guide the nation through difficult times and be able to make calculated decisions in distressing circumstances. Some Americans may hope he accomplishes his goals or hope that he will reach across the aisle when making policy decisions.

Both Bridges and Arado shared the same concern for Obama.

“Honestly, I hate to say it, but I thought it was entirely possible he could have been assassinated during his first term,” Arado said. “That would have been devastating.”

Bagley had a different concern.

“My biggest concern of his first term was that his opposition in the House of Representatives would ruin the economic progress he had already made,” Bagley said.

Obama has another four years in office, so looking forward to the next term Bridges and Arado share some similarities in what they hope Obama will accomplish.

Arado hopes to see more job creation and Bridges said, “I hope to see the unemployment rate come down. I’m concerned that I may not be able to find a job after college.”

Meanwhile, Bagley, who is currently a legislative intern for Planned Parenthood, had concerns about global warming.

“I’m hoping that he will find ways to continue to reduce carbon emissions, and take measures to help reverse the effects of global warming,” Bagley said.

Making progress in Washington is no easy task. It takes an incredible amount of energy and persuasion to get people to agree.

Stanley Ellington, president of the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce, believes that some progress has been stifled because Obama is African American, and furthermore believes a lot of the negativity about Obama is racially motivated.

Bridges suggested that political stagnation is just typical of Washington politics.

Arado said, “There is too much partisanship getting in the way. Democrats and Republicans need to find common ground.”

While this is a small sampling of Utahns, it is interesting to see that these individuals can have such different perspectives about the president. What he may symbolize to someone may be entirely different than to another person who also supports him. It seems that no matter what he symbolizes to someone, every American has hope for not only his future, but also America’s future.

Media influenced Native American voters

by JESSICA DUNN

The Black Eagle family of the Crow Tribe adopted president-elect Barack Obama, whose new name is “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land,” during his visit to the Crow Nation in Montana on May 19, 2008.

Obama was the first presidential candidate to visit the reservations of the Crow Nation. He was adopted in a private ceremony, and then he gave a speech ensuring Native Americans that their well-being is a priority to him.

He promised to honor the government-to-government relationships and treaties, to appoint an American Indian policy advisor and to host an annual summit with tribal leaders. Obama also vowed to improve trust funds, education and health care for reservations all over the country.

“I want you to know that I will never forget you,” Obama said in his speech to the Crow Nation. “You will be on my mind every day that I am in the White House.”

Obama’s visit and speech had an impact on the early support from Native Americans.

“I think people were impressed with his commitment he showed by just going to the reservation,” said Harlan McKosato, the host for Native America Calling, in a phone interview.

Native Americans overwhelmingly supported Obama by more than 80 percent, according to a poll conducted by Native Vote Washington, a voter advocacy group based in the state of Washington. And like most demographics this election, voter turnout for Native Americans also saw an increase.

“Before a lot of people didn’t vote because they said it didn’t matter who was in the administration because things didn’t change for Native peoples. They were treated the same and ignored the same,” said Donna Maldonado, general manager of KRCL. “The tribes saw promise in Obama. … I think he is our hope for the future.”

Native American support can be attributed to many factors, including Obama’s promise of change and better voter education overall.

Change

Obama has promised change to the Native American community. And while most are skeptical about promises made by a politician, a lot of people think he can change things, McKosato said.

Native Americans see Obama as someone they can identify with because of his diverse heritage, said Ella Dayzie, executive director of the Indian Walk-In Center in Salt Lake City, in an e-mail interview.

A follow-through on those promises will first be seen through Obama’s appointments within his cabinet and other positions. He has promised to create an American Indian advisor position to better meet the needs of the Native communities. Obama has also proposed an annual summit with Native American tribal leaders.

“With a Native American cabinet chair, the hope is that the U.S. government can now be well informed about the special set of challenges American Indians face, from issues of sovereignty to access to affordable health/behavioral health care,” Dayzie said. “One cannot ignore what is in front of him/her daily.”

Obama has already named six Native Americans to various transition teams. Mary Smith, Mary McNeil and Yvette Roubideaux have been assigned to work on justice, agriculture and health issues respectively, and John Echohawk, Keith Harper and Robert Anderson will advise Obama on changes within the Interior Department, according to Change.gov.

Obama has also promised money towards improvements for Native American health care and education. His economic and infrastructure development plan includes an increase in the federal minimum wage and adequate funding for the Indian Housing Block grant, according to the First Americans Fact Sheet at Obama’s Web site.

Obama’s promises to Native Americans created greater interest in the election within the Native communities. Voter education on the issues and candidates also influenced voter turnout.

Voter Education

Voters had a vast amount of information at hand about the election, from the newspaper and television to the Internet and YouTube. Most of the sources contained general information on candidates and issues. However, some programs focused on Native American issues and voting.

KRCL-FM is a public radio station in Salt Lake City, Utah, founded in 1979 as a community radio station where all issues could be discussed. KRCL has always been committed to having diverse voices on the air, said Maldonado general manager of KRCL.

Various ethnic groups, including Native Americans, have had airtime since the beginning. Today, the Native American slot is on Sunday mornings. Native America Calling, a live call-in program based in Albuquerque, N.M., that discusses issues specific to the Native American community, is rebroadcast on KRCL at 6 a.m. And, at 7 a.m., Living the Circle of Life plays traditional powwow music and contemporary American Indian music from local and national artists.

Native America Calling is an hour-long program that airs every weekday at 1 p.m. Eastern time on select stations. The program’s topics range from financial issues to a book of the month. During the presidential campaign, the program evaluated the topics and candidates from a Native American point of view.

“Native [America] Calling on KRCL helped in bringing news/reports about the issues that matter to Native American voters,” Ella Dayzie said.

Some of the election topics included discussions about political parties, Native veterans, women’s vote, young voters and planning for Election Day. The program also talked about the reaction to Obama’s win and discussed the promises Obama made to Native Americans.

Native America Calling has had full phone lines each time the election was discussed, said McKosato, the show host.

“People were more interested in this campaign than ever before,” he said.

Native America Calling helped get the issues out to Native Americans. The show used politics related to the community to spark an interest in the election and get people motivated to vote. 

AIROS Native Radio Network also used the radio and Internet to give Native American voters a voice. AIROS is an all-Indian Internet radio that is broadcast 24 hours a day through web streaming. It had audio, video, news articles and podcasts covering the election from a Native perspective. AIROS reporters used their stories to link Native communities to the election. They covered the 2008 Native Vote Initiative campaigns, presidential candidate rallies and Native American support.

The National Congress of American Indians expanded its Native Vote Initiative this year in an aggressive campaign to get more Native Americans to vote. The 2008 initiative had four core plans: provide training to educate, engage and mobilize voters; ensure fairness of voting laws and protect Native voters; educate candidates on issues important to Indian Country; and get the Native Vote message to media and the general public. Volunteers from tribal communities visited with people, even going door to door, to educate individuals about issues and help them register to vote.

“The NCAI’s Native Vote team has done a great job on getting the ‘vote’ out and educating the American Indians about both parties so that [they] can make an informed decision,” Dayzie said.

The End Result

Obama’s goals and promises to better Indian Country have brought a new hope to Native Americans. And due to a focus on the Native American voters and issues, Obama now has the opportunity to keep his promises to them and people all over the United States.