Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 1.15.2009


Letters to Obama

We’ve asked our readers to send us their hopes, their dreams, their admonitions for a new president who takes office Jan. 20. Local pediatrician Todd Huffman expresses our nation’s concerns well: “With such a great and sweeping triumph comes unreasonably great expectations. But Barack Obama is neither a magician nor a messiah. He will not be flawless. He will let us down as surely as he will lift us up. Ahead are as many days grim as days glorious. After all, Obama inherits a terrible legacy. Our nation is beset by challenges of unimaginable complexity and crowded priority. His challenges and ours are so great that success will come only with considerable patience, sacrifice, and participation. There are no light loads at this America’s dark hour. We must pull together for some heavy lifting.”



Where climate change is concerned, you’ll be able to work toward one of two different things:

1) You can do what is viewed as “politically possible” — making small changes that might buy you a few points with mainstream environmental groups but not upset anyone. Or …

2) You can attempt to do what is absolutely necessary to prevent climate catastrophe. This will be extremely difficult as it will be very upsetting to powerful economic interests and mainstream Americans generally.

Between climate change and peak oil and the unprecedented scale of economic collapse and human suffering that will accompany them, it is not an exaggeration to say that we need a complete bottom-to-top restructuring of human civilization, and we need it right now.

If you choose to do what is “politically possible,” 75 years from now, history will see little difference between you and George W. Bush. As hundreds of millions of people are having their homes inundated with sea water, you will both be seen as having completely lacked vision and courage.

So please … once you are president, use the “bully pulpit” to forcefully educate the American people (and by extension) the people of the world.

Robert Bolman, Eugene



I believed you would honor your word when you vowed in every speech and debate to end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest corporations in America. I hoped you would continue to stand your ground against off-shore drilling. I hoped you would pull our troops out of Iraq according to your timeline. I voted for you because you wanted change while Hillary Clinton wanted to be realistic. This, however, does not seem to be the case. Meanwhile you have selected an openly heterosexist preacher to deliver your invocation, and you continue to support equal civil unions, which screams “separate but equal” to me. 

All of my hopes have died, and unless this hope of mine can be resurrected, I’m afraid I will be voting Green in the next election. 

 Casie Clausen, Eugene



We need national solar access protection legislation that can be implemented with some variation by local jurisdictions, sometimes known as right to light laws. Otherwise, we will have a plethora of lawsuits as were outlined in the Solar Law Reporter published decades ago by Solar Energy Research Institute.

People who have invested $10,000 to $20,000-plus in solar water, space heating or electric systems sometimes find them blocked by multistory buildings built helter-skelter as urban infill takes its grip.

It takes a greater degree of creativity and training than a lot of planners, designers and builders have to site and build with the sun, but let us choose strategies now to ensure that as many people as possible enjoy the highest quality of life that living in a solar assisted home or with a solar assisted energy system can provide.

Kathy Ging, Eugene



Congratulations! Your victory has given me hope that, yes, we can change. I am “Mike the mason,” and I have some advice for you.

I specialize in repair of old house foundations. The first thing I do when I start a project is to tear out and remove the old skirting to allow light and air under the house. This exposes all the rot, pests and vermin that have been hiding in the dark underbelly for years.

 Mr. President, your first step should be to remove all the barriers that have protected Bush and his verminous clan. Expose them to the truth of light. Hold trials and prosecute all those guilty of crimes.  The next thing I do to repair old foundations is to remove all the old dry rotten beams and joists. Putting new wood next to old rotten wood will only cause the new wood to rot.

 Mr. President, your next step should be to remove and replace all those who have been tainted by the Bush rot. As the Bible teaches, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins.”

The only way to save the crumbling foundation of our country is to do the hard work of removing the rot and rebuilding with new strong timber, insuring that our foundation will always have the fresh air it needs to keep the rot from starting again.

Mike the Mason aka Michael T. Hinojosa, Drain



Thank you for all the sacrifices that you have made to become our leader in these crucial years for America and the world. The most difficult times can provide boundless opportunities to implement bold plans and to unify Americans behind common goals.

Your efforts to be open with the press and to communicate directly with the citizens of the U.S. are a breath of fresh air. I am depending on you to be candid with us. Americans must understand that a healthy environment, economy and society depend upon our ability to change our selfish, arrogant and profligate ways. Each of us must be asked to make sacrifices in order to create a new American way of life based on consuming only what we need and sharing excess income or time with the less fortunate through higher taxes or voluntary service.

As long as this society continues to consume 25 percent of the world’s resources, we will find ourselves policing and bullying the regions of the world that we depend on to continue this rapacious rate of consumption. Terrorism is not fostered in a vacuum. The world’s poor have righteous grievances against a country that consistently demands more than its share. The U.N. was ostensibly developed to solve international problems. To actually play that role, the U.N. cannot be dominated by a few powerful nations and must have adequate funding to mediate international disputes.

Kit Kirkpatrick, Eugene



Health care should be a human right. We ask you to give us a single-payer universal health care system that is publicly funded and privately delivered. The middlemen insurance companies are a huge drain on our medical care. We need doctors to be in charge of our health care, not insurance companies!

Ruth Duemler, Eugene



We have come a long way. When I was a young man, people were prejudged and their opportunities limited just because of their skin color. Too often, if they could get on the bus at all, they had to sit at the back of the bus. We now have you, a man of color with great intelligence and leadership, elected to be our next president. You will be “driving the bus.” With this in mind, my hope is that you will do at least two things: 

1) Set a new positive course from the road we have traveled the last 8 years. PLAN B: Mobilizing To Save Civilization by Lester R. Brown would be a good road map. 

2) Look in the rear view mirror. Did the previous driver (W.) follow the operating instructions (the Constitution) for the “vehicle of state”? This must be investigated. Was it irresponsible, bad luck or criminal? We can ill afford to have a future administration do this again.

You have given us hope. The world needs you to deliver!

Ron Davis, Cottage Grove



I am very impressed with what you have done so far to get to where you can actually try to effect change. I don’t envy you having to push everything past all the emotional 2-year-olds who don’t want their gravy train to stop and the recent have-nots who want their turn at being the emotional 2-year-olds. I suppose the two things I most want to see from you are these: 

1) Don’t be ineffectual. You will be presented with all sorts of opportunities to get mired down.

2) Work for the rest of us. Bush has bankrupted the country for his eight special friends. Lead the rest of us in learning how to take the country back, and in general do more with less, (because we will have to do so). 

When I look at the speeches and interviews in your past, I see a brilliant man who might actually be able to move us in this direction.

Good luck. I’ll try to do my part. 

Margaret Weller, Eugene



Quick and Dirty: 1) Let’s encourage the middle class to revert to the “layaway” mentality 2) Let’s encourage everyone to drive less and save up for a house or buy goods locally that we need 3) Make sure the American automakers know we will buy fuel efficient vehicles if they are made well! 4) Let’s all find the faith, wherever it lies in our hearts, our families and our communities.

Wendy Friedman, Eugene



For sure, single-payer health care is the most important issue facing the country. And it will be a great way to stimulate the economy. But it will take time to implement.

An even better way to quickly foster economic growth and give financial security to the citizens is to raise again the minimum wage, and attach an annual cost of living adjustment to it.

The banks don’t need saving. The people do. “Bottom up” stimulus.

Bob Cassidy, Eugene



The choices you’ve been making for cabinet posts and the news that you’re caving in to the military on keeping troops in Iraq suggest that one of your main goals is — as much as possible — to eliminate opposition to your new administration’s policies. But these concessions not only won’t satisfy possible opponents, they’ll cost you your base: the support of people like me who voted for you. You seem to be planning to make very few of the changes we were hoping for, changes I believe we need for our nation and world to survive. 

I think the old saying that “You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself” applies here. Be the bold leader you led us to believe you would be, using your oratorical skills to explain the necessity of doing things differently. That’s the way to win over opponents.

This is no time to be politically expedient, looking ahead to a second term. If you don’t do the right things now in relation to climate change, peak oil, and our national and world economy, the scraps left in 2012 won’t be worth fighting for.

Margaret Springer, Eugene 



Several years ago I discovered that I had won the lottery. It was more than money that I had been gifted with. I live on the only planet that we know of that recycles life forces. I grew up in the U.S. We were about 5 percent of the world’s population using 25 percent of its energy. I had a great public education at a very affordable price. I raised three wonderful daughters. Now I discover that those who win the lottery don’t always keep their riches. We, as humans, are out of balance with nature.

The current president has approval ratings in the 20 percent zone. Congress is even lower. You as our new world leader need to represent the “greater good,” not just a few large corporate interests. To quote David Brower: “There is no business to be done on a dead planet.” We need jobs, affordable education, renewable energy sources and protections for our life force systems.  

I believe that you have the talents needed at this crucial time in history. Go forth and make it balance.  

Mary Jo Davis , Cottage Grove 



From all elected officials, we the peoples of the world require: representation, integrity, respect, honesty, accessibility, transparency, accountability, full disclosure, virtue by example, equality, justice for all globally, fair trade, fair labor, universal health care, liberty for each and every person, and the return of all resources to the public domain, uncorporatized and deprivatized.

No more refugees regardless, no excuses, none, nada, nyet. Dismantle the military industrial, congressional, corporate, think tank complexity, propaganda machine. Unplug the whores of war and bailout buzzards from the public treasury. Cast out all lobbyists/money changers. Model understanding, caring, sharing, compassion, sincerity. Embrace lifetime learning. Ostracize invincible ignorance and teach-to-the-test mentality. Promote social melioration, not indoctrination.

Participate in and abide by Kyoto, Nuremberg, Geneva Convention and other treaties fully and honorably. Put an end to war, war horrors, warmongers, war merchants, war marketers, war profiteers, war abominations all.

Invest my hard earned tax dollars forevermore from this day forward in the peoples; devote resources to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, restoring communities and neighborhoods, rebuilding infrastructure; guarantee clean air, clean water, community gardens, mass transit, free education through college, alternative energy (solar, wind, tidal), accessible health care and other social services of and by and for and with the peoples.

Sarah Ruth, Eugene



Since you won the election, I’m proud to be an American again. I pray that you and your family will be safe and blessed in Washington, D.C.

Please fulfill these campaign promises early in your term:

1) Close Guantánamo and forbid all forms of torture by U.S. personnel and agencies.

2) Reduce U.S. troops in Iraq and end offensive combat operations there. Meanwhile work to remove all US military from Iraq.

3) Urge Congress to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Our country must reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

4) Take all nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert and work with other nations to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

Christa Knittle, Eugene



The young, energetic, artistic people of this country — probably your most fervent backers — are looking to reconnect with America’s roots using the new technologies they’ve been trained with. This could take the form of a Works Progress Administration-style mission to document, restore and disseminate our national and cultural heritage. There are undocumented Native American petroglyphs in Utah that are being vandalized, historic homes and buildings that sit vacant and decrepit, veterans of wars who are forgotten and wild forests, rivers and landscapes marked for destruction. Armed with camcorders, digital cameras, microphones, blogs, websites and DIY-skillsets, these Americans could be put to work preserving this great nation’s complex past and tumultuous present for future generations. 

Imagine: A younger, hipper crew of Ken Burnses dispersed across the U.S. and all over the Internet.

Chuck Adams, Eugene



Most Americans appreciate the high value you and Michelle place on education, and your view, sorely needed, that “We must agree to disagree even if it’s disagreeable.” As a poet and museum docent, I offer some suggestions on education as a foundation for the health and wealth of our nation.

Education is an antidote to the atmosphere of violence which has become epidemic: “Acceptable levels of cruelty steadily rising”… to quote poet Adrienne Rich. In order to generate a culture that respects the interrelationship of all life forms and values cultural diversity, we need updated curricula that include, but go beyond, technology, literacy and the 3 R’s.

A K-12 program with the “web of life” theme could encompass many subjects:

1) Environmental awareness/ecology. (As poet Gary Snyder pointed out, the word comes from the Greek for “home”).

No child left inside: Students reconnect with nature (beyond TV and virtual contact) in field trips led by teachers and volunteers (include elders) to forests, beaches, parks, wetlands, farms. Hands-on learning with farm animals, birds, at wildlife refuges. Clean up projects for rivers, coasts, forest trails to build values of community. Emotional problems eased by contact with animals and other creatures.

2) Geography — local, national, global. Love for what’s local expands to the world. Foreign language studies.

3) Nutrition. Real food in schools (soda & chips don’t feed brains). Teach gardening (grow your own food & flowers). Reclaim vacant lots in cities. Hire Michael Pollan as advisor on Food and Agriculture! Get programs on  health care and nutrition to mothers-to-be and new mothers, especially low income. 

4) Don’t cut school arts programs! Art-making and exposure to the arts is not a luxury. The arts humanize, open doors of perception, create joy and healing expression. Support a “Culture of Beauty” — with Ladybird Johnson an early model — mural art, residencies for artists and poets.

5) Don’t overlook prison education. Writing programs, meditation, literacy and compassion are healing correctives.

You have rekindled faith in what can be accomplished. You have our support and our critical comments as well.

Can’t wait to hear Elizabeth Alexander’s inauguration poem!

Claudia Lapp, Eugene