Thursday, August 28, 2008

The promise

"This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours, a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead, people of every creed and color, from every walk of life, is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess."
Barack H. Obama, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Review of "The Khyber Pass: A history of empire and invasion" by Paddy Docherty

A nice flowing history of the civilizations of Eurasia, from Alexander the Great to US involvement in Afghanistan, from the perspective of one specific location, the Khyber Pass, a narrow passage through the mountains between modern Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The choice to retrace History from that unique location enables the reader to finally put all the pieces that we have learnt in school together and gives the satisfaction of finishing a puzzle. But the book also teaches new pieces, such as the history of the Nomadic peoples that kept storming from the Eurasian steppe (why?), a history so wonderful but unfortunately so neglected in western education, or the history of the remnants of Alexander's empire, known as the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, who survived many centuries after Alexander's demise and left a profound influence of Greek culture in Asia. You will also learnt why so many former officers of the Napoleonian armies found themselves to serve the Sikh's king, or why the present events occuring in Afghanistan appear as the returning ghosts of what happened there over the last two centuries...
I highly recommend it. And the nice illustrations scattered throughout the book add another layer of beauty.