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What Kind of Celebrity Do We Want in the White House?

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa–On the day when I planned to contemplate the end of Ken Griffey Junior’s sad, nine-year injury-riddled tenure with the Cincinnati Reds with his trade to the Chicago White Sox, I find myself having to address the issue of Obama and the idea of celebrity.

By now you’ve seen the ad comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. While giving a nod to Obama’s popularity and ability to draw thousands of people to speeches and rallies across the world, the McCain campaign has labeled him a man without substance, who’s more interested in playing the part of the president instead of actually being one.

But to make that leap ignores the important idea of what a man who can transcend his position has in our story as a nation. During the Great Depression, millions of homes had portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt because they believed in him and what he stood for: hope in the midst of unearthly hopelessness. They believed that a nation could rise from the soup lines and dust storms to reclaim its place as a world power. It was in many ways the idea of Ronald Reagan–a man who was strong, determined, brimming with optimism–that helped a nation reclaim its mighty identity after being pounded by economic devastation at home and embarrassment abroad.

The truth of the matter is McCain is another form of celebrity. From the day he returned home as a prisoner of war, McCain has stood for courage and national bravery and decency. We will always know him as the tortured POW who, as a young man, put his country before himself by remaining a prisoner when he could have stepped in line in front of another soldier. It seems that the question that remains is not "Do we want a celebrity in the White House?" Rather it is, "Which celebrity we will trust going forward?" Will we choose the the steady hand, of security who will use his experience and heroism to lead us out of this dark and terrible time? Or we will choose the young embodiment of our national dreams and aspirations, who rose from nothing and represents the fulfillment of the unmet dreams of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King? But whomever we choose, this much is certain: K-Fed will not be answering that call at 3 A.M. As for Griffey….

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