Who's Included In 'Yes We Can'? Writer S. Pearl Sharp shares thoughts about reaching out to the middle class, and asks where the nation's impoverished citizens fit into the Obama administration's plans.
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Who's Included In 'Yes We Can'?

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Who's Included In 'Yes We Can'?

Who's Included In 'Yes We Can'?

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally, all this week, we're bringing you different voices reflecting on the historic swearing in of Barack Obama, the first African-American president. President-elect Obama enters the presidency next week with many challenges, and author S. Pearl Sharp shares her suggestions for Mr. Obama's agenda.

Ms. S. PEARL SHARP (Writer): Mr. President, throughout your campaign, you only spoke about the needs of the middle class. You never included the nations' impoverished citizens, many of whom work as many hours as you do with much less to show for it.

Each time I heard this, I thought about an incident back in 1993. While the government was spending almost $700 million to correct the Hubble telescope anchored in outer space, a homeless woman died on a park bench right across from HUD, the national housing office. Then and now, we have a national obsession to see ourselves through black holes in space but so easily ignore the mirrors right in front of us. I would ask you to help us get our national priorities back in order - a return to common sense and the logic of human caring.

You could start with the space program. Huge funds go sailing into space, sailing over the heads of citizens who must sleep in their car, mothers rationing food to their children, social workers overburdened with legitimate cases of need, sailing over soldiers on active duty who don't earn enough to support their families. And there is the deprivation that cannot be mended by food stamps, the slow death of malnourished spirits. Take a chunk of that space money and use to nourish our humanity.

This next one is a tall order, Mr. President. Change the way Congress does what we sent them there to do. Specifically, let's end this practice of attaching unrelated items to a bill. If funding an education program is a priority, then that education bill should not have beef subsidies in Wyoming and windmills in Wisconsin stuck into it. That's a sneaky, nasty, unhealthy way to govern. It keeps our representatives negotiating against each other, trading favor for favor, voting to protect rather than focusing on a pure intention.

Then tell us the truth about who we are in the world. So many citizens have yet to understand why the attacks on 9/11 happened. They are ignorant of why the United States is so hated because they don't know about the secret, despicable behavior inflicted on others in our name. I know that healing is one of your priorities, but we can't see others if we cannot see ourselves. Become the nation's embedded reporter. Stamp the truth into our passport.

And speaking of healing, I've got to tell you, sir, we watched you age during the campaign. Yeah, so perhaps good health and election reform should be merged into one committee.

And finally, I ask you to keep your habit of calling your daughters Sasha and Malia every evening. By example, you're making fatherhood and family a national priority. You are stepping into a house fraught with conflict, hostility, and volatile situations that may not match your intended priorities, but you are not alone. The ancestors, you know who they are, are whispering in your ear.

MARTIN: Writer S. Pearl Sharp lives in Los Angeles, and we will hear other reflections the rest of this week. And we also want to hear from you. What are your thoughts about the upcoming inauguration? Are you planning to attend, planning to watch on TV, or planning to do something else? Are you looking forward to the big event, or are you just looking forward to it being over?

To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number again is 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name, and, of course, you can also go to the Tell Me More page at npr.org and blog it out.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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