They Aren’t Going to Like This!

Politics has always fascinated me.  When I was four, I told my parents, “I am going to be the first Black President!”  Almost forty years ago, that seemed impossible. But in 1978, at the age of six, I saw Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the Camp David Accords with President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin hammering out an agreement for peace between Israel and Egypt.

I studied Sadat. Why not? He looked like me.  His hair was gray, but the texture looked like mine. I could relate to him even more, when I learned he was a Muslim like my family. At first, I was alarmed that he smoked a pipe. But that made me look closer and see something I have found in other courageous leaders.

They are pensive. Sadat looked this way with his pipe in hand. But like courageous leaders, sometimes he looked sad. Not the kind of sad you and I feel. His was a retrospective sadness. Like he was thinking, “They aren’t going to like this, but it is the right thing to do.”

That look comes from knowing they may be right but have to move a mountain of naysayers to get the people onboard. Who wouldn’t be sad knowing this lies ahead. That is why CHANGE is hard and we see many leaders instead of standing up with courage, they turn and run the other way.

Equipped with this difficult task, on the global stage Sadat still often flashed a big smile. Begin and Carter did too. Their smiles on September 17th, 1978, were one of hope, that together they would move that mountain.

History shows that courageous leaders against great opposition, inspire hope.  They inspire even when we aren’t ready to travel the road less traveled. Fortunately, we have had Presidents do this, even when our Congress disagrees. Domestically this was the case with slavery, segregation and women’s right to vote.

Internationally we saw it when President John F. Kennedy negotiated behind the scenes with Russia averting war over the Cuban missile crisis.  When President Richard Nixon negotiated and then visited China.  And when, President Ronald Reagan negotiated with Russia to eliminate intermediate range and shorter range missiles. All decisions that altered the course of history using the strength of diplomacy over the power of war.

The Iran agreement is a pathway forward that trusts the strength of our diplomacy. What fourteen countries including the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany achieved is historic.

Leaders like South African President Nelson Mandela whose nation was imperiled by apartheid offered his nation a better way forward.  If we look at photos and video of Mandela, you might see the look of pensiveness and sadness once he left prison.  Yet, close your eyes and remember his great smile.  It is like he knew something we didn’t.  And he provided hope to his nation and led them from apartheid to liberation.

Like Mandela, Obama now will try to offer that hope to our Congress who disagree with his decision with Iran. Congress will debate it and may vote against it. The reality is there is no agreement the GOP  would accept. They prefer fear, conflict and tension.  That is why this agreement puts Obama in the category of Presidents like Mandela, Kennedy, Carter, Nixon, Reagan, Sadat and Begin.

He made a hard decision that leads to a better pathway for peace.  And opens pathways for the world to get to know Iran better.  Because of the Camp David Accords I have been able to visit Egypt, South Africa and Israel.  I hope in the near future, peace in Iran makes it possible to travel there.

CHANGE is difficult for some to accept.  At times, leaders feel like they are stuck in quick sand moving large numbers out of an abyss of despair. They cannot walk like they are on land. They have to rise above the danger and see, then communicate that help and a brighter future with a better way is ahead of them.

Some leaders don’t have that ability.  More importantly, they don’t possess the talent or ability to inspire hope .  So they use fear to keep people close. This causes more friction and danger. We see this too often here and abroad. It keeps wars going for too long.

That’s why President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words are still used today. During a time of great economic calamity he said in his first Inaugural Address that the “only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Fear has been used for centuries to keep us from moving FORWARD. The awakening of the intellectual spirit is offering hope that there is a new and better way FORWARD. That is what this agreement is really about, a better way FORWARD.

We won’t know for weeks, years or decades to come, if Iran will hold up its end of the bargain. But we should give it a try. And whether you do or don’t applaud the President for it, at least support him in the short term for diverting our nation from a course that would lead to another war.

The President like those before him often has that pensive look. At times, he has a look of sadness in his eyes. Moving a mountain is no small feat. Over the past six years, we have seen his big smile!  It is a smile of HOPE. It tells us everything is going to be okay. He is battle tested and deserves our support on this decision. The President has led our nation out of economic uncertainty, stabilized global markets and got us out of two wars.

He has moved mountains and as a leader he continues to make the hard decisions, not the popular one. His hair is gray much like Sadat’s almost four decades ago. He like Sadat, Begin and Carter during the Camp David Accords is trying to make America safer.

Some child or children are watching Obama as I watched Sadat thirty-nine years ago because they can relate to him. More importantly, they are watching us. Let’s give them the best example to follow. One that shows that together, we can move big mountains and make the world a better place for us all!

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP).  Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

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That is Patriotism!

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By Atiba Madyun

You’ve heard by now, that Rudy Giuliani who led NYC through 9/11, said that President Barack Obama is unpatriotic and doesn’t believe in America.  This led me to wonder, how do you define the President of the United States as unpatriotic?

How is a President, who led the nation out of its worst recession since the Great Depression, from double digit unemployment to 5.7%, unpatriotic?  How do you call the President unpatriotic, when he made the decision that led to our troops killing the mastermind of 9/11?

Mr. Giuliani’s comments were given on the heels of President Obama’s speech at the White House Summit on Countering Extremism.  In his speech, he referred to ISIL and other terrorists as “violent extremists” instead of linking terrorism directly to Islam.

As an American, raised in a Muslim family, I appreciated the President distinctly differentiating between violent extremists and Islam even when, some inside the White House wanted the President to link Islam with extremism. Instead, the President said to the nation and the World that, “We are not at war with Islam.  We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Imagine what the world would be like if a man like Giuliani was President, perverting the issue for political reasons?  It would divide us as a nation and separate us from other good Muslims in the world.  That would be irresponsible and unpatriotic.

Mr. Giuliani, the President is the leader of all Americans.  He has a responsibility to protect Americans here and abroad.  Had he done what you wanted him to, it would have added fuel to the fire and helped ISIL recruit even more people.

I am glad the President didn’t cave to hysteria and Islamaphobia.  Instead, he called on the entire world and religious community, in particular Muslim clerics to work together to combat “violent extremism.”

It scares me to think of a world where Giuliani or someone like him was President.  There is a reason you failed to secure the GOP nomination.  A President’s tone in this day and age has to be patriotic and resonate with the American majority.

Last month, when President Obama gave the annual State of the Union address, I was appalled when members of my party, the GOP failed to stand and applaud when the President said that the “State of the Union is strong.”  This was unpatriotic Mr. Giuliani, but we didn’t hear you call out the party!

Lines are drawn by Democrats and Republicans, as if we were at war with one another.  This week, the GOP is threatening to shut down the government over the President’s executive actions on immigration. Patriotism should always rise above partisan divide.  That’s why we came together when our nation was attacked on 9/11.

This nation is 150 years removed from slavery, an institution that nearly tore our nation apart.  It took the life of one of our most beloved Presidents.  Today, a majority of Americans are coming together around issues that we used to be far apart on.  Mr. Giuliani, it should be unpatriotic to be against raising the minimum wage.  It should be unpatriotic to close pathways to prosperity for many, so that a few can succeed.

I see things every day that show the President’s love for this nation.  It can be seen in his manner and decisions to make America a better place for his children and all children.   Is that not patriotic?

Our nation is on a better course than it was six years ago.  At times, I have questioned the President’s leadership and policies.  But, I have never questioned his patriotism.  As an American, it is my patriotic duty to voice concern, just as it is my duty to vote and give whoever is the President, an opportunity to lead and succeed.  Today, six years into his Presidency, with no more campaigns to run, he is free to lead his way and I like what I see!

In light of violent extremism, Mr. Giuliani, I wholeheartedly appreciate the President’s decision to take out this enemy.  To do this successfully, he will need to build a large coalition.  I believe him when he says, we will defeat them.  So we should give the President a chance and if he is wrong, then come back and criticize that, but not his patriotism.

His record as Commander in Chief has earned him that privilege.  The President is doing his patriotic duty, by seeking ways to destroy an enemy like ISIL, without putting more young men and women in harm’s way, as we did in the last decade.  Isn’t that patriotic and commendable?

Our President has ushered in affordable healthcare for millions of uninsured Americans.  He seeks policies that provide greater mobility for the middle class.  Why?  Because he knows that this will strengthen the economic stability of our nation.  Leveling the playing field, so that every American has an opportunity to prosper in the world’s richest nation is good for our national security and it is patriotic!

Mr. Giuliani, we are grateful for the leadership you displayed on September 11, 2001.  We would be more grateful if you did one more patriotic thing.  Get out of the way.  Let our nation, fulfill its destiny and the course our nation’s founders set us on, to become a more perfect union for, WE THE PEOPLE. That is patriotism!

Atiba Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP).

Unveiled!

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By Atiba Madyun

As one raised by parents in the Islamic faith, I applaud Michelle Obama and First Ladies before her, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush for visiting Saudi Arabia and not wearing a head covering. They all have represented the U.S. and women worldwide with class and distinction.

Women and men in the Islamic faith are urged to be moderate in their dress. Yet too often, for instance in the summer, I see some Muslim women with full covering and their men in shorts and T-shirts. SMH

Men in Islamic countries should focus more on curbing their desires as opposed to suppressing women with laws about dress and keeping them for instance from being able to drive a car.

Their focus should be to bring peace in a region of the world that to many, including myself, seems primitive.

This would go much further in showing the religion in its purest form as compassionate as opposed to it appearing to suppress and oppress women. ‪#‎LOVE

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG) a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC.

We Cannot Move On Until…….

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I was as many others were, disappointed that a grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed Michael Brown.  But I wasn’t empathetic after seeing the convenience store surveillance footage taken minutes before his death, where he stole a $48 box of cigarillos.  Truthfully, I wasn’t empathetic because too often, I see young men like Michael and his friend give law enforcement, teachers and others in positions of authority a hard time.  I see them on the metro and in malls loud and disrespectful of others around them.

I am empathetic to this though, Michael was unarmed.  The grand jury’s failure to indict Wilson is an indictment of our lenient American law enforcement policies.  That is why today, we see another officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York City cleared for his role in the stranglehold death of unarmed Eric Garner.

Is this a trend?  It is reminiscent of stories of slaves who tried to escape the bondage of slavery, but when caught were hung from trees and murdered.  It brings forth the sad image of the lifeless young body of Emmitt Till lying in a casket after he was killed for whistling at a woman.  In far too many cases like these, their murderers go unpunished.

That is why today, an overdue conversation on American relations is at the forefront of discussion on media outlets here and abroad.  Michael and Eric aren’t the first young unarmed American men to be killed by police officers who weren’t indicted or convicted.  What about Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McDade, Timothy Stansbury, Jr or Sean Bell?  That is why it was good to hear President Obama say today what many of us believe, “this is an American problem.”

I don’t agree with any of the violent protests or the yelling going on in Ferguson.  But I understand the root frustration of it.  Too often it takes this type of protest to get the empathy and support of others.  Today’s conversation is eerily too similar to video images from the civil rights era, where police officers and White men got away too often for killing unarmed young men because of the color of their skin.

It is sad that it takes instances like Ferguson to turn the tide of despair into hope.  History shows that empathy from fellow Americans didn’t come until they saw images of police officers turning fire hoses, dogs and guns on unarmed Americans marching for civil rights long denied them because of the color of their skin.

That is why we cannot move on until the conversation in Ferguson becomes about something more than race.  This is about America and how we treat one another as human beings.  It has to call into question why the behavior of our young men, makes it difficult for others to see their humanity.  Truly, why has friction grown so evident between our young men and police officers?  Is there an image problem?

My brothers and I talked about this over the weekend as we celebrated my brother Damani’s 40th birthday.   He said that Black men don’t have an image problem rather we have a branding problem.  I found this to be an interesting statement since I think they are one and the same?

Image is everything.  That is why I have never seen the dignity in wearing pants off the waste line down to the knees, or thick steel toed boots unless there is snow or it is cold, hoodies, huge gold chains or having unkempt hair and long beards.  While this is a personal choice, why would anyone want to dress or look like this?  In my opinion and siding with my brother on this, it is an image that has become a uniform and branded by some as “thuggish”.

On the other hand, police officers wearing uniforms are seen as threatening to these young men and the friction and fear on both sides has risen to a level of hostility that leads to senseless deaths.  That is why we should call it what it is “a war on American streets.”

How did our young men go from wearing saggy pants during slavery to suits and back to pants now falling around their knees?  If the conversation about Ferguson and young unarmed American men being killed is about race isn’t it important to look at how Americans put their best image or brand forward?  If this is true, then both young men who dress this way and police officers in uniform going to work every day, both have an image or branding problem.

The conversation about unarmed American men being killed by police officers requires introspection in order to move forward.  It is one that will be uncomfortable for everyone.  As my friend Chris Finan said responding to my post about the five St. Louis Rams players, who courageously put their hands up in solidarity with protestors in Ferguson just before their game this past Sunday,

“This is exactly the point. White privilege allows us white folks to decide not to have the discussion. We can walk away whenever we want and get along with our day. Those players for the Rams that made that statement were all black. They were in their uniforms so everyone loves them and cheers for them. However, let one of them be walking down the street in plain clothes and be dealt the same racism that happened in Ferguson. That’s why they did what they did and they had every right to do it. It was exactly the best platform for them to make that statement. Anyone who’s uncomfortable with that truly has no idea why everyone is so upset about what happened in Ferguson. It’s about the bigger issue. That’s why we need to have the discussion and not walk away when it feels uncomfortable.”

The issues in the American Black community are prevalent in other communities.  Far too many American families are led by single mothers.  While many single mothers are doing the best they can to raise their children and our hats go off to them, too many should not have to.  Too many of our young men are being raised without a father in the home.  Therefore too many, lack the guidance only a father can provide, no matter how hard the mother tries.  The American value system has lost respect for the traditional family.  If it hadn’t, more Americans would voice their outrage that programs like Housewives, Basketball Wives, Honey Boo Boo, and the Kardashians are doing nothing more than making these families wealthier, while too many of us watching are becoming poorer.

The issues of race, the division in politics and in communities near and far are a byproduct of our value system.  We see this in the lack of class exhibited by elected officials in Congress with their lack of respect for the President and even more for holding Americans hostage over their senseless debates and failure to come together to advance causes that benefit all Americans.  Our current value system divides us along party lines, race, religion and gender.

If the conversation in Ferguson is to yield anything of significant consequence, it will take level heads, moderators and leaders who can get us to take the high road.  Further they will elevate the conversation beyond Black and White and who is to blame and help us find solutions.

The conversation in Ferguson requires language that will unite us and bring us together as a nation.  It cannot be about another black man being killed.  The language has to be that another young MAN was killed and taken away from his parents when he was too young.  Making him just a black man diminishes that he was a man just like any other man, irrespective of color.  An officer who kills an unarmed young MAN is wrong and should go to jail!  Michael, Oscar, Sean, Eric and the countless other MEN who have been killed were someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father, someone’s husband, someone’s friend.

Too many young MEN are being killed and their killers are not being punished.  We cannot move on until we address this as a human rights issue that transcend race.  It goes beyond the idea of civility.  In the end, when it is all said and done, do the lives of the victims and their families find the justice they deserve if we don’t call into question about how we treat one another with dignity.  Last, how will our lives be defined?  Will it be how we lived as Blacks, Whites, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, Christian and Jew?  Or how we lived our lives “being human” to one another?

It is my belief that we cannot move forward until we accept that our humanity binds us in ways that the different colors of our skin cannot.  The lives of those who have been slain will again be in vain, if we don’t realize that.  Can we finally find a way to move on together?

What do you think?