OPINION> Ravi S. Narasimhan
Dear Barack
By Ravi S. Narasimhan (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-07 07:45

I don't think I am being presumptuous in addressing you so informally - after all, this is the first time a US president has been born after me, so I assumed the privilege of age.

Hey, superstars don't sport honorifics. Madonna? Maradona? They'd sound funny with a Ms or Mr as a prefix. And they've never bothered with a suffix.

And you've even been endorsed by none other than Daniel Craig, who says you would make a better 007. So here's a chance to smash another racial barrier: A Black Bond.

I mean, how cool can you get?

I remember the Democratic convention (the one before yours) where you, then only a state senator, burst on to the international stage with oratory reminiscent of Cicero, and proclaimed: There is no White America, there is no Black America, there is no Latino America, there is no Asian America. There is only the "yooo-nited States of Amerikkka".

Everyone knew it was a cool moment, but perhaps didn't realize how cool.

I remember when you started your battle for your party's nomination as an outsider.

Your opponents, too, were talking about change. As did, of course, McCain the Maverick, later on. But you somehow concocted a copyright on change. If I had a coin for every bit of change in this campaign, I would be sitting on a fortune.

You talked about hope. So too did others in the primaries and the presidential election. There was even the man from Hope, as eloquent as you, but he couldn't seal the deal.

Your hope was more audacious.

You talked about unifying the country. But your predecessor as president started out promising exactly that: The Unifier, not The Divider.

But it seemed somehow more convincing when you said it.

You talked about unifying the world; to speak to any country, friend or foe, as long as it was in your nation's interest. You drew a fascinated, hopeful world into your orbit, making it "our election". No prizes for guessing who would have won if the world voted.

You just seemed so cool.

Perhaps the rhetorical moment of the campaign came when you disowned the Rev Jeremiah Wright, while not disowning him: I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

Eliza Doolittle may have been put off by all your Words! Words! Words! But what a blighter you proved to be, showing there was money where your mouth was.

It was cool to raise half-a-billion dollars while better-connected people around you couldn't raise half as much - and through small change.

If you had taught those subprime sultans, hedge-fund honchos or leverage leviathans some of your cool tricks, the world might not have been in such a bad economic shape today.

But still, I remind you, and cool as they were, there have been only words so far. As Lucius is reported to have said of his cousin, the aforementioned Cicero: Words, words, words. Is there no end to the tricks you can make them perform?

Now, when hope is ready to embrace change, and when words have to be translated into action, it would be really, really cool if you walk the talk.

P.S. Since we are now on first-name terms, and this is to let you know, btw, I'm taking my annual vacation a fortnight or so before the Spring Festival in late January. I mean, actually, that I'm doing nothing on Jan 20.

It would be really, really, really cool to check out the Inaugural Ball. I hear Michelle is a cool dancer.

E-mail: ravi@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 11/07/2008 page8)