By Anoushka Shankar

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From the moment Barack Obama showed up on the public radar, he caught my eye as a rare American politician with a global perspective, a genuine awareness of urgent issues like climate change and the environment, and someone who was capable of giving straight answers. Which isn’t to say, sadly, that he’s not a smooth enough politician that he can avoid answering when he needs to, but I was drawn to his eloquence and refusal to be pinned down to overly simplistic answers to complicated questions, something the American public has become habituated to and which is compounded worldwide by the modern media’s sound-byte culture.

This was two years ago while he was out promoting his book “The Audacity of Hope,” and around the time friends of mine in New York and LA started talking about him as a politician to watch out for. And watch out I did. Though I’m not sure I could have predicted where we are now, I harbored thoughts about how wonderful it would be to actually have a leader like him in this country. Someone who could correctly pronounce the names of other countries, someone who could help repair America’s tarnished image, and with a respectful and educated manner that people around the world would be able to relate to.

In case it isn’t apparent, I support Obama. I’m cynical enough at this point that I doubt he’s as perfect a leader as some people make him out to be, but I still think he would at least be a viable leader in a way that his opponent would not.

I wanted him to win even before the lovely Mrs. Sarah Palin showed up as Vice-Presidential candidate for John McCain, though my desire multiplied manifold when faced with the nightmare she would mean for the country. McCain has some great qualities, but it’s Obama that lit an ember of hope within me, and in many of my generation, that there is a chance, however small, to pull the world out from the disasters it has spun into, largely because of America and it’s actions over the last few years.

What can one say about Sarah Palin? To start, I don’t want a wolf-hunter as a Vice-President. It terrifies me that someone with no working knowledge of important policies and doctrines would be literally one step away from the Presidency. I find her hard-lining stance against abortion (even in cases of rape or life-threatening danger) and her desire to implement teaching creationism in schools a complete violation of the most basic tenets of the American constitution. I resent the condescension showed by McCain in thinking women across the nation who had supported Hillary Clinton would rally to his side once he had a woman running with him, regardless of her merits or political views. Whatever respect I may have had for him vanished when I saw he could make a choice more based on his self-serving need to win the election, than what was best for the country. His policy of “Country First,” was, in my eyes, torn to shreds.

But it seems his choice was a blessing in disguise for us Obama-lovers out there. What was initially an impossibly close race to predict the outcome of, started tipping in Obama’s favor as the media started focusing on Palin’s ignorance, parroted responses, and deer-in-headlights reaction to challenging questions. God bless Katie Couric and Saturday Night Live with their genius spoofs! For two weeks before that I was terrified that people had actually fallen for Palin, but now she seems to be the most made-fun-of politician in history, outshining even Clinton and his marital infidelities. It’s not that I enjoy seeing her poked fun of, but someone with that much fodder for ridicule simply doesn’t belong in office. Perhaps we’re just habituated to that after these last eight years?

As I have traveled around the States this month, I’ve gone from places like New York and LA where support for Obama is wide-ranging, to small cities in the South of Florida, where, yes, most people seem to support McCain. A lot of people are threatened by the prospect of America’s first black President, and find him young, untested, and too exotic and “fancy” for their liking.

No, we don’t want our leader to be too fancy and educated do we? Much better that he got a B-minus in economics like dear old Bush Jr. and pushes us into a nine-trillion dollar debt, or peppers her debates with “Ah, shoot” and “Joe-Six-Pack” like Palin. Seriously, isn’t everyone tired of the down-home, supposedly all-American, gun shootin’, beer totin’, Freedom-Fries-eatin’ leaders we’ve been forced to deal with in recent times? Aren’t we ready for a politician who can remind us of the classy statesmen of yore while bringing us more fully into the twenty-first century?

Finally, finally, it seems that people are ready. People are mobilized around the nation. There is a new energy in the air that I can sense everywhere I go, a stirring of hope and change. Friends my age who have never cared to vote are registered for the first time. Other people I know have left their jobs to join the campaign trail, and many have started their own efforts to raise funds for Obama amongst friends and colleagues. People who have fought and protested Bush and the war have a candidate they can pin their dreams on. And it’s a beautiful thing to see that people, especially around my generation, have finally found a leader who inspires them.

With the current economic climate, people are more and more sure that Obama has a real chance of winning. My idealistic side wants it to be more than the terrible financial situation that has shifted the tide in Obama’s favor. Of course everyone’s worried right now, and people are suffering as they lose their savings and their homes. It’s natural that their losses have made them lose faith in the Republican Party and they’re turning to Obama as someone who can help pull them out of this mess. But at the last two Presidential debates, almost nothing was asked about the war. Nothing was asked about America’s global image and what can be done to regain respect around the world.

But maybe the reasons he will win don’t matter. How wonderful to potentially have a leader that could afford relief to home-owners, most taxpayers, and medical aid-recipients alike, while also bringing troops home and regaining friends and respect around the world. I don’t mean to make Obama out as the next Messiah, but I think there’s a good chance he could help put America back on the right track, which is something I have zero hope that McCain and his scary sidekick and cronies would manage.

Not to mention that I hope Obama wins for very selfish reasons; I just don’t think I can live here anymore if he doesn’t. 


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.


New tour dates announced
Duet with Jethro Tull and a new Sitar Concerto by Ravi Shankar

For the first time ever, Anoushka will embark upon a duet concert tour, through India and Dubai, with the legendary rock band Jethro Tull. This new collaboration will feature the artists playing on each other’s compositions, some new work written especially for the tour, and some free improvisatory explorations.

Tickets for the India shows can be purchased directly by going to

In January Anoushka will premiere a new Concerto written by her father, the great maestro Ravi Shankar. The "Concerto #3 for Anoushka and Orchestra" follows two sitar concertos Mr Shankar wrote decades ago, and is the first he has written for anyone other than himself. Anoushka will perform this historic work with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City and in several other American cities.

Tickets can be purchased at

2009 Concert Tour Schedule
with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Jan. 25, 2009 Evanston IL Pick-Staiger Hall, Northwestern University 7:30pm
Jan. 29, 2009 Easton, PA Williams Center for the Arts 8:00pm
Jan. 30, 2009 South Orange, New Jersey SOPAC 8:00pm
Jan. 31, 2009 New York, New York Carnegie Hall (Live WNYC Radio Broadcast) 8:00pm


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