2008-01-31 / Sam Bari

Image is Everything

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

Image has been a problem for this country since it was first conceived. For some unknown reason, we have always had difficulty presenting a good image of our nation to the rest of the world.

For instance, do you think it was difficult for our country's forefathers to sell the concept of "land of the free" to the slaves? I'm sure the slaves and indentured servants serving the forefathers lunch at a remote Virginia plantation as they planned the Revolutionary War took exception to their message.

Due to the efforts of the Quakers, slavery was banned in England in 1783. Don't you think that the droves leaving England for the so-called land of the free caused a few raised eyebrows over the subject of freedom? Freedom for whom and from what was not always made clear - not a good image for a newly found nation.

Our image as a country of innovation, industry, wealth and opportunity has always thrived well. But, as a people, our image has continually suffered and so often because of really dumb things. Lack of foresight and planning come to the front of the list.

I cannot help but think that we might have been perceived in a more favorable light if slavery were not the foundation of economic stability in the purported land of the free. I have no idea how we overlooked that little hitch in the creative concept of the advertising campaign to promote the revolution.

However, it is nice to report that we have progressed. Yes, it took a couple of hundred years, but we have come a long way. From the days of slavery, racism and prejudice, we have emerged victorious with equal rights for women, children and minorities. Without a doubt, there is much yet to be done, but on the whole, we have improved in these areas.

To illustrate how far we have come, the upcoming election is a shining example of our country uniting as a nation of tolerance and equality. For the first time in history, a woman, and a man of color are being considered for the highest elected office in the nation, the President of the United States. That is a wonderful thing.

It is finally possible that our country could have a woman or a black man as its president. If not in this election, in the not too distant future, that will happen. The country has been overwhelmingly receptive to the idea of both. I don't think gender or race will ever be an issue again, which is the way it should be.

However, that lack of foresight and bad planning problem has again raised its ugly head. Maybe this time we can nip it in the bud, so to speak.

After overcoming the unspeakable hardships of slavery, inequality, lack of basic freedoms, and emerging as a vital thread in the weaving of our nation's fiber, I cannot believe that we are one day going to elect a black man to the nation's highest office and make him live in . . . the White House.

Somehow, this appears me to be the ultimate insult. Now maybe it was just an oversight, but I don't think it should be shoved under the rug. Was it the idea of our country's forefathers when the White House was built in 1792? The construction was overseen by George Washington, but he never lived there. The first occupants were John and Abigail Adams, who moved in while it was still being finished in 1800.

When the idea emerged to build the "President's House," a competition was held. Nine proposals were submitted to President Washington and City Planner Pierre L'Enfant. An Irish-born architect, James Hoban, was awarded the contract and won a gold medal for his design. However, it was never clear who made the decision to call the structure the White House.

More than likely, the name had nothing to do with political or social intent. The building was white, so that's probably where it got its name. But this little faux pas is now coming to haunt us and could once again tarnish our image. Thinking ahead appears to be one of our shortcomings. Or maybe presidential accommodations are just another part of that system we can't understand.

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