President Obama Cannot Please Everyone

Commentary on President Obama's response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico says that he has not been tough enough on BP, that he has not shown sufficient leadership, that he has not shown enough emotion, that he has not demonstrated that he feels the pain of the people in the Gulf States. After an interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" where he spoke about needing to meet with experts so that he can know "whose a** to kick," he is criticized for using this expression.

On Saturday, he was on the telephone with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, whose constituents are worried that the rhetoric from the White House is too harsh against BP and will cause BP's stock prices to plunge. This would hurt British citizens whose pensions are invested in BP.

This all reminds me of the Aesop's Fable, "The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey." A man, a boy, and a donkey are walking along the road to market. Someone passes and says it is foolish that one of them is not riding the donkey, so the man puts the boy on the donkey. Next, someone passes and criticizes the boy for having no respect for his elder by riding while the man walks, so the boy walks and the man rides. Then, someone complains that the man is guilty of child abuse by making the boy walk while he rides, so they both climb aboard the donkey's back. After a while, someone comes along to say they are guilty of animal abuse. So they tie the donkey to a pole and carry the donkey with the pole on their shoulders. When they get to the bridge, the donkey kicks one of his feet loose from the tie; the boy drops his end of the pole; the donkey ends up in the river, and since it is still tied to the pole drowns. The moral of the story: "Please all and you please none."

It is impossible for President Obama or for BP to please all. This is so because no one will be pleased until the leak stops and the spilled oil is removed from the water. No one will be happy until the coastline is safe from pollution. This is not unlike a family fight at a funeral. Family members fight each other because they are angry that the loved one is dead, and they cannot fight death itself.

We want our president to be pastor, king, and C.E.O. This is too much to ask of one individual. Believers ought to pray that God gives wisdom to all involved that they will know what to do next. And we ought to pray that this event will be a clarion call to the nation, a call which will cause us to summon the will to make the necessary lifestyle changes that will break our addiction to oil.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at She received her PhD in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

+ Ask President Obama and Congress to support a climate and energy bill that protects people and the planet, not polluters.

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