Sunday, March 30, 2008

Three advises and a prophecy

To win over depression


By João Cruzué

I wrote this message to ones who walk depressed or suffering with the loss of many battles, and needs desperately for strategies to win the war. I want to say it does not matter where you be, I can prophesy there is a certainty of victory for you, since you read these three advices, keep in your mind and put them into practice.

First advice: do not be imprisoned in the past.

If the cause of your problems is in the past (and I am not going to type a list) every time you waste time looking backwards, bitterness will invade your heart. I can illustrate this with the tale of the “Cat’s funeral”.

The cat of one family died and children combined to do a solemn funeral to that kitten. Since they liked a great deal of the event, they decided to leave its tail outside of the ground. The next day they pulled its tail of and repeated the ceremony, leaving again the tail outside. To each funeral, the bad smell was unbearable, then they decided to stop playing.

You are not going to manage and resolve your problems or to be out from them, if every day you be exhuming that "cat" from your past. This decision was much usefulness and this advice is in your Bible at Filipenses 3:13 and 14. Examine it. God wants you change your glance to the future, since your victories will come from there.

Second Advice: Prayer and physical exercises

Prayer is the key that opens the door of Heaven. But there are two conditions to pray and be heard. If you still not accept Jesus as savior and LORD of your life, go in the Worship Service of the nearest Evangelic Church and say to the pastor precise you need to reconcile with God and want to accept Jesus. If you “give a time” in your faith for any problem, look for that Church you quit, if it is near, and return for Jesus. Why it is necessary to do this? The Answer is in Gospel of John 9:31.

"We know what God
does not hear to sinners; but
if someone trust in God
and it does his will,
to that one He hears ".

If you are not fitted in that two previous situations and are fighting one biggest struggle, do not be driven to despair. Days in the valley are times of preparation for the improvement of your christian character to be prepared to blessings bigger than are near. In the Bible who passed therefore was Jó: after great affliction he gained from God the double of everything he had .

I lived 11 years of great unemployment that I passed for times things were not giving right. During that times I did regularly long walks in a calm near street. It is proved by the medicine that the physical exercises stimulate production of endorfina in our brain. During these walks I always used to pray. In the Bible, Prophet Elijah did a long walk in times of depression, in 1Reis 19:4 to 7.

The time what you pass in communion (talking) with God will be the time He is going to help and strenght you to resolve your problems. He knows perfectly everything about you, but the initiative is up to you. Things which many people do not know is the fact that LORD has interest to hold a firm relationship with us to bless us - like he did with Job - whereas our reality shows that we have not a great interest on talking to (pray) and to build a victorious relationship with HIM.

Third Advice: do not be idle

Along the Bible we can see God observing a standard to choose (many are called, and few are the chosen ones) persons for leadership. I can affirm He looks for people who be working. In His process of choice, God never separated anybody for a victorious life, among idle people. Perhaps because idle persons besides do nothing, they develop a bad habit of an extremely critical language - that can be seen in two conversations between God and devil in the first two chapters the Book of Jó.

One of the principal reasons because there are sad so many people embittered, depressed between Christians is the lack of occupation or the refusal of assuming responsibilities in the labor of the LORD. Once the the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life brings joy, then what will be the cause of so many sadness, embittered and depressed among christian faces? The fact must be when they refuse on be occupying with the activities of their calls, they sadden the Holy Spirit, day after day, until rest only ashes of a hot coal that was slowly put out.

The smile of the victory


Do not bring your past to the present; keep looking forward . Reconcile yourself with God for your prayer can be heard; do not leave of practicing physical exercises. Try to be involved and assume responsibilities at the House of the LORD. Be firm, do not lose heart, because you are going to win this war. Look well at this photo above. Through the faith I can see the same smile in your face, since you hear what the Spirit of the LORD has been speaking.

João Cruzue
blog Olhar Cristão


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nepal Christian News

Rally on the last Easter Sunday

Brother M. J. Shah


On the last Easter Sunday
In Tikapurr - Nepal
Dear Brother Jean,

Greeting from Prince, Thank for your replay. I am interested to help you with your blog news.

I am here in Western part of Nepal and doing ministry in the Church. We have twelve daughter churches with more then two thousand members. Our church is one of the biggest churches in western part of Nepal. Epically, I am focusing youth and disciple leaders.

I love to work with you; I can send you our ministry up date and prayer request every month, so you can publish. And also we need your prayer.

Here is the ministry update about Easter.

Dear Brothers,

Greetings from Prince and S. Ranie - my wife.

Wishing you a very blessed but belated Easter Sunday. You must have had enjoyed the day. We are doing fine by the grace of our living Lord. Hope, this same goes with you.

On last Easter Sunday, we had a very blessed time in Tikapurr , far west of Nepa. Early in the morning, we went for procession, proclaiming about Jesus….Jesus has risen for dead. Jesus is the way the truth and the life.

And we did this program at open ground. Especially our target is to reach the unreach people. Also, we have invited 14 candidates of different political parties, who are going to participate for upcoming election (Constituent Assembly). More than four thousand people were gathering together from different - parts of the local community.

I think, this is happened first time in Christian history of Nepal .

Every political party got five minutes to have their speech. They have their own saying about Christianity. They have given great hope for Christianity. I got chance to host that program and able to share my testimony. By the grace of God I did it well as the audience gave feedback later. Many people touched by my testimony.

The imaging thing is that, this morning one of the key leader of Maoist came to our house and she told us, she want talk with us. I really thank God; he gave us wonderful opportunity to share the Gospel with her. Also I share with her my testimony. Please continually pray for her.

Thank you so much, God bless you,

In Christ,

M. J. Shah "Prince"
Tikapur Christiya Church
Kailali, Nepal.

Letter got by brother Joao Cruzue

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sarah's Vase

What a 7-year-old girl and a small yellow flower
taught me about the honor of serving God.

By David Cerqueira - Christianity Today

Sarah's Vase

Sarah's parents were new to town, and she was just getting to know her classmates at church. As a second grader, she was full of energy and beaming with naughtiness. As Sarah's Sunday school teacher, my wife provided me with a limitless supply of funny stories—Monday night dinner was usually served with Sarah's latest antics. Everyone at church seemed to like her. She was simply an easy kid to fall in love with.

One Sunday my wife had prepared a lesson on being useful. She taught the children that everyone can be useful—that usefulness is serving God, and that doing so is worthy of honor. The kids quietly soaked up my wife's words, and as the lesson ended, there was a short moment of silence. Then Sarah spoke up. "Teacher, what can I do? I don't know how do to many useful things."

Not anticipating that kind of response, my wife quickly looked around and spotted an empty flower vase on the window sill. "Sarah, you can bring in a flower and put it in the vase. That would be a useful thing."

Sarah frowned. "But that's not important."

"It is," replied my wife, "if you are helping someone."

Sure enough, the next Sunday Sarah brought in a dandelion and placed it in the vase. In fact, she continued to do so each week. Without reminders or help, she made sure the vase was filled with a bright yellow flower, Sunday after Sunday. When my wife told our pastor about Sarah's faithfulness, he placed the vase upstairs in the main sanctuary next to the pulpit. That Sunday he gave a sermon on the honor of serving others, using Sarah's vase as an example. The congregation was touched by the message, and the week started on a good note.

Tragic news

As a pediatric physician, I have developed an uncomfortable feeling about telephone calls. During that same week I got a call from Sarah's mother. She worried that Sarah seemed to have less energy than usual and that she didn't have an appetite. Offering her some reassurances, I made room in my schedule to see Sarah the following day. After a battery of tests and days of examinations, I sat numbly in my office, Sarah's paperwork on my lap. The results were tragic.

On the way home I stopped to see Sarah's parents so that I could personally give them the sad news.

She slowly walked to the front of the church and put her flower in the vase and a piece of paper beside it.

Sarah's genetics and the leukemia that was attacking her small body were a horrible mix. Sitting at their kitchen table, I did my best to explain to Sarah's parents that nothing could be done to save her life. I don't think I have ever had a more difficult conversation than the one that night. Sarah's mom looked me in the eye and with tears asked, "How can this happen? Why would God allow this?"

As doctors, we try everything to save a life. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing to trade our life for that of one of our patients. Especially when they are as dear as Sarah. But sometimes, nothing can be done, and a tragic end is only a matter of time. Sarah was to have such an ending. Such a beautiful life, ended by such pain and anguish. It became difficult not to question the goodness of God in Sarah's life.

Final flower

Time pressed on. Sarah became confined to bed and to the visits that many people gave her. She lost her smile. She lost most of her weight. And then it came: another telephone call. Sarah's mother asked me to come see her. I dropped everything and ran to the house. There she was, a small bundle that barely moved. After a short examination, I knew that Sarah would soon be leaving this world. I urged her parents to spend as much time as possible with her.

That was a Friday afternoon. On Sunday morning church started as usual. The singing, the sermon—it all seemed meaningless when I thought of Sarah. I felt enveloped in sadness. At the end of the sermon, the pastor suddenly stopped speaking. His eyes wide, he stared at the back of the church with utter amazement. Everyone turned to see what he was looking at. It was Sarah! Her parents had brought her for one last visit. She was bundled in a blanket, a dandelion in one little hand.

She didn't sit in the back row. Instead she slowly walked to the front of the church where her vase still perched by the pulpit. She put her flower in the vase and a piece of paper beside it. Then she returned to her parents. Seeing little Sarah place her flower in the vase for the last time moved everyone. At the end of the service, people gathered around Sarah and her parents, trying to offer as much love and support as possible. I could hardly bear to watch.

What the note said

Four days later, Sarah died. I cancelled my morning appointments and sat at my desk, thinking about her and her parents, hurting. I remembered the funny stories that my wife told about Sarah. I remembered the sweet sound of her laughter. I remembered that telephone call that brought the sadness.

Tears filled my eyes as once again I struggled not to question the goodness of God in allowing Sarah's life to end in such a horrible way.

I wasn't expecting it, but our pastor asked to see me after the funeral. We stood at the cemetery near our cars as people walked past us. In a low voice he said, "Dave, I've got something you ought to see." He pulled out of his pocket the piece of paper that Sarah had left by the vase. Holding it out to me, he said, "You'd better keep this; it may help you in your line of work."

I opened the folded paper to read, in pink crayon, what Sarah had written:

Dear God,
This vase has been the biggest honor of my life.


Sarah's note and her vase have helped me to understand. I now realize in a new way that life is an opportunity to serve God by serving people. And, as Sarah put it, that is the biggest honor of all.

Adapted from Evangel magazine (December 2005).

Christianity Today


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday of Passover






1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.
3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.
5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?
6 "He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,
7 "saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’"
8 And they remembered His words.
9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.
11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.
12 But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.

13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.

14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
17 And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?"
18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?"
19 And He said to them, "What things?" So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
20 "and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.
21 "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.
22 "Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.
23 "When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.
24 "And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see."
25 Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
26 "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?"
27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther.
29 But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." And He went in to stay with them.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"
33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,
34 saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"
35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you."

37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."
40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?"
42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.
43 And He took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."
45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obama speech: A more perfect union

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

"Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.
Barack Obama is a Democratic Senator from Illinois and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination."


João Cruzue - Christian View Blog


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Christian Presidente for Russian Federation

— "I heard that you were baptized as an adult?

"At age twenty-three. I took the decision myself.
The sacrament took place at one of St Petersburg's main cathedrals.
I was there with a friend.
I think that it marked the beginning of a new life for me…

I would suggest stopping there:
it's too personal to go into the details."


DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Dear colleagues and forum participants,

— As a popular saying goes, in Russia there are no ways of protecting yourself against ill fortune; now it seems there are also no ways of protecting yourself from the presidency. People in the know have long confirmed that you, Dmitry Anatolyevich, will sit in the exalted halls of the Kremlin, and you always denied this, saying that all you found interesting were the national projects...

— First of all, I am not the President of Russia, merely a presidential candidate. Secondly, overseeing the national projects is something I have been devoted to for more than two years. Finally, thirdly, the Russian proverb you quoted is true. It is the quintessence of folk wisdom: live your life well but remember that one is never safe from misfortune and trouble. Even though I wasn't feigning anything when I said that I wasn’t planning to take on the position of head of state. Of course, as each person chooses a path in life they must have an ultimate goal in mind. A career is just such an instance. The lieutenant thinks about one day receiving a marshal's baton, and if one chooses an administrative and political career then it is natural to want to climb the ladder as high as possible. But this linear process is more difficult in reality. When I moved to Moscow in 1999 I could not have imagined that in eight years I would be running for president.

— When did you first hear this word in relation to you?

— Everything became clearer last December after consultations with the leaders of major political parties and an in-depth and detailed discussion with Vladimir Putin. What I had done in the Kremlin administration until November 2005 fell into the category of behind closed doors activities. My duties changed in the White House. We are all a little bit presumptuous, and I considered myself a person ready for any type of work, since I had the chance to work in academy, business, law and the civil service. However, the new work experience was difficult to compare with previous ones. The President rightly warned me: «You cannot even imagine how much your point of view will change.» And this was how it turned out.

— And then there were two participants in the race — you and Sergey Ivanov.

— No one held castings or primaries. It was different: at some point Vladimir Vladimirovich decided to put forward certain actors who had not previously been in the public view and make them active participants in the political field. I am not talking about myself, but I noticed this with regards to my colleagues: the new appointments and transfers proved very successful.

— Did you worry about whether you could carry the load?

— Of course. I thought about that ever since I arrived in Moscow. In Petersburg I had interesting work, a successful business, and an established life. I was engaged in the field of law and felt that I was financially secure, realizing myself as a professional. I came to the capital in complete ignorance. True, it took me just a bit of time to understand that this was a completely different situation, on a totally different scale! In the civil service there are a lot of defects and limitations, but there is one undeniable quality. The knowledge that the decisions you take can affect the lives of millions of people makes you evaluate every step you take or word you say differently. I repeat that this is another degree of responsibility and, therefore, another degree of self-realisation. Such a feeling doesn't exist even when working for a very large business. Especially since after the 2000 elections I started to work for Gazprom in addition to the work in the Kremlin. As a corporate lawyer, this experience was extremely interesting for me. In short, I became quickly convinced that I had made the correct choice but I was still concerned about my family, ensuring that my son would have a normal childhood, and convincing my wife that her life would not get worse.

— What arguments did you try?

— I said that we had received an interesting proposal from Moscow. Sveta simply asked me to think everything over.

— What was Svetlana Vladimirovna doing in Petersburg at the time?

— The same thing as now: bringing up our son, establishing and maintaing a home. This is difficult and responsible work. I say this without a hint of irony. Sveta graduated from the Voznesensky Institute of Finance and Economics in St Petersburg, worked as an economist in different places, then went on maternity leave and gave birth to Ilya. I then said that she shouldn't go back to work but should bring up our child.

— Patriarchy!

— What to do about it? This is normal logic for a man, who wishes to have a solid and reliable rear guard behind. Of course, from time to time Sveta did say that it would be good to find some additional activity, but I explained that in my opinion it is better for the family if the wife stays at home.

— How long have you been together?

— We have known each other since seventh grade. You figure it out. You know how old I am and I am not going to tell you my wife's age: you can guess yourself. We studied for ten years in the 305th school in Leningrad. I retain very good, bright, warm memories of those years. Even though the school was a normal one, and not very prestigious, many of its graduates went to university. From my graduating year 80 per cent entered university at the first try.

— And you lived in Kupchino at the time? Not a very prestigious area of Petersburg…

— True, but it was a newly-built modern residential neighbourhood. At that time many Petersburgers would have been happy to trade a room in a crowded communal apartment on the Moika [River] or Nevsky [Prospect] for their own, albeit small, apartment on the city outskirts. My father, who taught at the Lensovet Technological Institute was given a slightly improved version of a Khrushchev-era apartment with a small kitchen and a separate bathroom, something which was considered desirable at the time. The total area was something like forty square metres. Not much, to be honest. But I lived there for almost thirty years and even managed to write a Ph.D. thesis there and not feel depressed or embarassed. Then I bought my first apartment. It was a three-room apartment in the Moscovsky district of St.Petersburg which was considered to be an elite area. I remember the happiness I experienced at the time was incredible, absolutely unique…

— Tell us a little more about your family Dmitry Anatolyevich.

— I already told you that I am a third-generation city dweller, but my grandfathers and grandmothers lived in rural areas. Before the Revolution Afanasy Fedorovich Medvedev was a peasant and then had a mid-level career in the party; he worked in the regional committee and the Krasnodar Krai Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Nadezhda Vasilyevna, my father's mother was, curiously enough, born in working-class Petersburg family. Her family died in the revolution and fate sent the orphan to a children's home in the Kursk region where she met her future husband. They were married at age 17 and remained happily married until old age. They had four children, two of whom survived - my father and his sister. My father passed away at age 77 and my aunt is still alive and lives in Krasnodar.

My mother’s relatives were from the Belgorod province and did, as they say, live up to their name. My grandfather's name was Venjamin Sergeyevich Shaposhnikov [literally – hat-maker] and his father - my great-grandfather - was a furrier, and made hats. My second great-grandfather, Vasily Aleksandrovich Kovalev, worked as a blacksmith. Many believed that he looked like the last Russian Tsar and now with Photoshop's help my picture is sometimes being made to look more like Nikolai the Second…My grandmother Melaniya Vasilevna was, in fact, a housewife who was devoted to her family and to bringing up daughters, though she did receive a higher education in economics.

Mama was born in the city Alekseyevka in the Belgorod region and after school, together with her sister Lena, entered the Philology Department of Voronezh University. Both received degrees with honours, but their careers somehow didn't take off. Mama went to graduate school in Leningrad, where she met my father who had already defended his Ph.D. degree and was teaching at the Technological Institute. My father had a room in a communal apartment on Ligovka [Street] and my parents lived there at the beginning. Then I was born and my mother left graduate school and took care of my upbringing. Later on she started working and taught Russian as a foreign language in the Herzen Institute, worked as a school teacher and even a tour guide in Pavlovsk Palace. I remember when I was younger listening to her stories about Russian history and being proud that I had such a clever mother. I love Pavlovsk. For several years we rented a seasonal house there because, unfortunately, we never had our own dacha. I normally spent a couple of months outside the city then went with my parents to see our relatives in Voronezh and then even further, to the sea. We stayed in Gelendzhik. I have memories of the fruit, growing right in the streets, from these first trips to the south. I had never seen plums, apples and pears hanging from the trees in Petersburg. It is an amazing sight for people from the north! But I must confess that I didn't like beach vacations. It's boring to spend the whole day lying on your back in the sun! Besides, at the beginning you had to search for a free place in the sun. In short it was deadly boring rather than a vacation! In general, I grew up playing outside and spent a lot of time in the streets.

— In what sense?

— Nothing criminal, normal boyhood fun. I know that some of my peers in St Petersburg tried to earn their first wages by selling black market badges and matrioshka to foreigners, but I wasn't involved in this. Foreign tourists didn't come round to the outskirts of town where we lived. I had quite enough to do in my place of residence.

— Did you smoke or drink?

— Not to excess. I tried it, like everyone else, and no more. No one smoked at home, and therefore I got never addicted. Also my parents were always very measured when drinking alcohol, and it is well-known that a lot is passed on to successive generations, both the bad and the good. As they grow up children begin to copy their parents. My wife blames me sometimes for bringing my son up too liberally. I reply that I also grew up without receiving any severe punishment. The most was that up to age seven I had to sometimes stand in the corner…I don't consider that using a belt or physical force are the best ways of persuasion.

— Are you your mother's son or your father's?

— As a child, of course, I was attached to my mama. Then there was a time when I saw that I was trying to copy my father. He taught me dedicated service to the cause that you've chosen and a love of reading. Today it is true that I rarely get beyond page ten in any novel. No time to read for myself, just more and more work-related reading! And my father had a huge library of scientific and technical literature including fiction and a ten-volume edition of the Small Soviet Encyclopedia. I remember that I started to study it in grade three. I looked at the maps, the drawings of animals, read some biographies.

— Did you find any other Medvedevs?

— Just a few – a partisan hero, a scientist… My father continued to teach until he was almost 70, he was immersed in science. Once he retired he lived with mama in the same apartment in Kupchino that they received in 1968. I convinced my parents to move with me to Moscow and it was here that my father had yet another heart attack. He passed away in 2004. I consider that my father had a happy life: he was able to realize himself in his profession and was proud of my successes. What could be more important for parents? After his passing I did not let mama go back to Petersburg and now she lives near me.

— Do you see each other often?

— At the very least we speak on the phone every day.

Svetlana's parents are in St Petersburg. Her maiden name is Linnik. Thanks to brotherly Ukraine, where my father-in-law grew up in the Poltava region. So neither myself nor my wife can claim to have blue blood.

— I heard that you were baptized as an adult?

— At age twenty-three. I took the decision myself. The sacrament took place at one of St Petersburg's main cathedrals. I was there with a friend. I think that it marked the beginning of a new life for me… I would suggest stopping there: it's too personal to go into the details.

— You give the impression of being a very closed person.

— Really? But I know why that is. I have a legal way of thinking, which has pluses and minuses. Dignity consists in the ability to correctly formulate your goals. This helps in making decisions. The disadvantage lies in the fact that often I say and explain more precisely than is sometimes needed. Because of this, you might feel as if I am Mr Dry-as-Dust, all buttoned up.

— That means that spin-doctors and stylists are not doing their work.

— There are no such people in my surroundings. And there never were. Maybe this is bad but that's the way it was.

— Now we'll try to fill in the gaps. Did you have a nickname as a child?

— I was never a large person so I was never nicknamed Medved' [Bear] or Medved [translator's note: animated bear on the Russian internet]. I was called Dima. As of age seven after school I disappeared into the street, did little homework, but this didn't often affect my marks. Then there were sports.

— Which ones?

— Paddling a one-man kayak. Even though I would not say that I made enormous strides. I got physically stronger. At the beginning I couldn't do a couple of chin-ups and then I became school champion in this exercise. After rowing there was track and field and in university I switched to strength-training. Not for the sake of records but to keep fit and to get credits for PE.

— And did sports prevent you from doing well in school?

— In seventh grade Sveta came into my life and I stopped caring about school. It was much more fun to walk with my future wife then to sit with my textbooks.

— Did you live near one another?

— Our houses were about half a kilometre away from one another. And school was about the same distance away. I came to my senses in grade ten when I realised that I had to do something about the situation. I brought my grades up and finished with quite a decent diploma that allowed me to apply to Leningrad University.

— When did you earn your first dollar, Dmitry Anatolyevich?

— Here is the story. In general, our family wealth was very average. In the sense that we didn't starve though we had little money. I clearly remember how this affected my birthday which was at the beginning of September and, by strange coincidence, still is. At the end of August we came back from the south and each time my parents would warn me that we had spent our money over the holidays and there was almost nothing left for birthday money. Dima, do not expect anything special, they would say. This happened from year to year and I got used to it and didn't expect anything. However, there were two things that I wanted very badly. Jeans and LPs. And my parents could not buy me either. Real Wrangler or Levi's jeans were available on the black market for a couple of hundred rubles, and an average teacher's salary was a hundred and twenty rubles. And real vinyls were very expensive. I remember dreaming about a double album that had just come out, Pink Floyd's The Wall, but two hundred rubles were an astronomical amount for me at the time…

And I earned my first money after grade eight. I did an internship in a mechanical repair factory and worked as an apprentice to a mechanic. There I honestly earned a ten ruble bill. I had never held such wealth in my hands before! If my parents gave me pocket money then they gave me fifty kopecks or a ruble. And here were ten at once! I called my friends, we caught a taxi and went to Nevsky [Prospect]. We drove up to the cinema in style, went to the counter and bought the most expensive tickets for the evening show – for 70 kopecks! We then went on to consume industrial quantities of ice cream. After the film we took a taxi home again. The ten ruble bill got used up quickly, but the memories remain…

— And how did a future chemist turn into a lawyer rather than a poet?

— Yes, I had a friend with whom I loved to play the chemist. That was before Misha left for a sports school and fate divided us.

— Do not worry, it will bring you together again. I can assure you that now many of your friends from school will reappear.

— As long as they don't make things up. I don't want to read lies about myself…

But about chemistry. My aunt from Voronezh sent me some beakers and test tubes and after school Misha and I went home and conducted experiments. Many different ones, and they were sometimes dangerous for our health. As a minimum, the inorganic materials that resulted from the experiments smelled badly, but they could also be poisonous.

— I imagine you were constructing a bomb?

— Nothing military! We were testing our knowledge through experiments. I always liked chemistry and my father suggested that I study with him at the Technological Institute or another technical university. I even spent half a year at the Military Mechanical Institute where I studied mathematics and physics. Frankly, I was not particularly impressed by the prospects but there seemed to be no other choice. And then I began to think: what if I followed in my mother's footsteps? I vacillated between the philological and legal faculties. In the end, I opted for the latter.

— A buddy-system department!

— Yes, the law faculty of Leningrad State University was always popular among applicants but it became prestigious relatively recently.

— Thanks to some of its graduates.

— Including them. Remember what people wanted to be in the early 1980s? Physicians, technicians in the defense industry, officers. They valued an education that would guarantee a large, stable salary (according to Soviet standards, of course). Back in St Petersburg there philologists were quite popular, because they were often sent for training to the other side of the iron curtain. There were faculties that were very much career-oriented, such as philosophy, history or oriental studies. But they accepted almost no high school graduates because they preferred guys who had served in the army or worked in industry. The law faculty represented the golden mean.

— Were you accepted the first time you applied?

— In the full-time course I didn't quite get the marks I needed and I was put into the evening course. I worked for a year in the laboratory for my father at the Technological Institute. I remember the first computer we had there. The machine was called M-6000 and it resembled a typical Soviet wall cabinet. My task was to fill the computer with punch cards and to insert magnetic disks. I spent the rest of the time reading theories of the state and law which allowed me to do well in the first two sessions and to become a full-time student as of second year.

— What about the army?

— I finished school at age sixteen and became a student before I reached the conscription age. There was a military faculty in the university where I was assigned the rank of lieutenant with the responsibilities of an artillery fire platoon commander. No, service did not frighten me, but I wanted to learn. And I must say that I never regretted the fact that I focused on jurisprudence. I liked everything and was ready to become a judge and a prosecutor, a lawyer and an investigator all at the same time. In third year I realised that I was leaning towards civil law. I had a scholarship for excellent academic achievements; I studied well, and my marks were uniformly good. But I still didn't have enough money. In the summer I slaved away in construction where I could earn three hundred rubles a month. When the semester began I worked somewhere as a doorman. One time I had the territory around the Priboy cinema. It was a great job! You get up early, go from Kupchino to Vasilevsky, take a broom or a shovel in the winter, and you've done your excercise before nine in the morning. And you go to class in the morning bright as a bunny. And they pay you 100 sterling rubles for your thorough work. In 1982 you could live pretty well on 150 rubles!

I had some time left for public work and became a member of the Komsomol committee at the faculty and then at the university level. I didn't think of this as extra work. I enjoyed it. After graduating from the law faculty me and two other guys were offered a place in graduate school, something that guaranteed that we would have work at the university after defending our dissertations.

— Did Sobchak help you?

— Anatoly Alexandrovich worked then as an ordinary professor. Nikolai Dmitryevich Yegorov, the Chair of Civil Law, helped me and my friends. We tried to not let our mentor down and all three of us defended successfully.

Who are we talking about?

— One of my fellow students you probably know, Anton Ivanov, who recently became chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court.

By a strange coincidence…

— That's the way life is. My other colleague chose to work in the commercial sector rather than in public administration and he seems to be perfectly satisfied. As I said, the legal profession is now quite popular, but before the attitudes to its representatives were quite different. In the sixties, at the moment when the process of building communism was starting at its fullest, some of the country's most important leaders adopted the ingenious idea of sending out the law faculty's graduating class to work for the post office. The state and the law were dying, and the USSR was striding on seven-league boots towards a classless society. At least that’s what the leaders thought. As a result specialists with diplomas were sitting and putting postmarks on envelopes...

But now we will soon have a new holiday, the Day of the Lawyer. If only it could help create the rule of law.

— I agree. To overcome the legal nihilism preventing the country from developing harmoniously is a long and difficult job. As it turned out, to establish a workable model of a market economy is much easier than laying the foundations of a state in which people respect the letter of the law. This is another demonstration of the thesis that democracy cannot occur in any given place after two or three years. It requires painstaking, persistent work to improve the legal and political system. Of course, one can not forget the distinctive characteristics of the Russian situation. You know, justice has always relied on a mechanism for enforcing its implementation, some kind of public stick. But if it is not based on a set of moral imperatives, on internal convictions and moral principles, if it simply aspires to the crude power of a punitive machine, then the structure it creates will be flawed and ineffective. In the nineteenth century, the Russian government was far from perfect but it was a developed system based on a set of moral and religious values. In the twentieth century, the second part of this disappeared: people were deprived of their faith in God and the state came to demonstrate either naked coercion, which at times was extremely cruel indeed, or weakness and complete failure. These are both equally bad. We all remember what the well known doctrines of the thirties and forties led to, when the talk was of class dictatorship and the presumption of guilt in criminal trials. This helped resolve some tactical problems, but in the long-term planted a time-bomb that ended the very existence of the Soviet state. You have to feel what justice is, accept it voluntarily, not obey it in some insanely prostrate way. The explosion was inevitable, it would have happened sooner or later. People rushed to the other extreme and took to systematically breaking laws. This is what happened in the nineties.

Do you think that the current system of justice is better?

— Though based on quite good, solid regulatory framework, our judicial system continues to function, getting its bearings from old traditions. Disregard for the law in various sectors of society remains widespread. Until we change people's attitudes, until we convince them there is only one law and no one is above it, there will be no change for the better. The strength of the rule of law consists in the fact that no one can influence it. Neither pressure from various authorities, including the most powerful, nor pressure from business nor social forces. Justice should be in harmony with all the participants in this process, and refuse to cave in to anyone.

These are fine words, Dmitry Anatolyevich, but how can they be put into practice?

— You can start small. For example, recommend that judges at all levels keep to a minimum all contact with businessmen and even representatives of public services. To retain maximum independence and objectivity.

You can't put people in a cage.

— You don't have to. It's enough if you can completely eliminate the personal factor. The more faceless the legal machinery becomes, the stronger it is. I am absolutely convinced of this.

Where would we be without human passions? Take the recent dismantling of the British Council…

— Let me say this: our relations with Great Britain are now at a low ebb. But such episodes have occurred regularly for the last three hundred years. I do not know if it has something to do with England's habit of regarding itself as Queen of the Seas, and we also have something to answer for…

[A group of Kovalevs: great-great-grandfather Alexandr, great-grandfather Vasily, grandmother Melaniya] …

In other words, closing down the British Council is a good way of providing yet another answer to Chamberlain.

— I do not have any examples of the British Government's allowing Russian public organisations to operate freely on its territory. Just try registering our non-commercial organization in London: you'll get a headache for sure. You’ll get tired of answering questions, of giving all manner of explanations. We need to compromise. Once someone invites you into their home, you have to behave properly. After all, everyone knows that a structure such as the state-funded British Council, in addition to the social and educational functions it performs, does many other things that aren't so widely advertised. This includes gathering information and conducting intelligence activities.

One can understand that about spies: we don't want any James Bonds in Russia. But it's important to get along with one's closest neighbours, and Moscow's relations with Kiev and Tbilisi are worse than those among neighbours in a communal kitchen.

— I don't see them as fatally compromised. With Ukraine we are moving toward the creation of a single economic zone, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan. It's not our problem that our Ukrainian colleagues have so many difficulties today with governance. When the various political forces are at war with each other inside a country, it is difficult to negotiate anything at the intergovernmental level.

With Georgia the story is more complicated. But we have no insoluble problems. And we have many points of common interest. Russia is open and ready to talk. We can't choose our neighbours, but we will continue to engage in a dialogue with them. I have no doubt that we will find a common language with the leadership of this Caucasian republic. If not today, then tomorrow.

As a last resort, you can always turn off the gas. Not only in Kiev and Tbilisi, but also for any other guilty parties.

— Gazprom always fulfills the commitments it makes. Therefore recriminations concerning energy blackmail, which we hear periodically from the west, are totally untenable. It is clear that, as Russia becomes more powerful, many people get irritated, and some of them rush to stick a label on us. But in the final analysis this is all a question of terminology and semantics. If you want, you can accuse the United States of financial aggression and economic terrorism, and of imposing its own values and entrepreneurial standards on the world. Everything depends on one's point of reference and perspective on the situation.

When I hear calls for Russia to show more flexibility, I think that ten years ago I probably would have agreed with this advice. But I can't now. And not because I've become a big boss. My angle of vision has changed. Had we not taken a tough stance on some matters, we would still be treated as a third-world country. As a country just in the initial stages of social development, a sort of Upper Volta with nuclear missiles. And this is not the case. We have our own special situation in the world.

Thanks to our bombs and oil and gas?

— Without a doubt. As well as our intellectual potential, thousands of years of history and a place on the map of Eurasia. In short, I do not see anything special in the fact that now we have begun to show our teeth in moderate fashion. Presumably, you mean that the force we show must be appropriate to the occasion, that overkill is foolish, that we don't want to train cannons on sparrows. You imply that to be for a Serbian Kosovo or against the deployment of the American missile defense system in eastern Europe we should fight to the death, the way we did at Stalingrad when the land ended on the Volga bank. And it is not worth stirring things up because of the British Council. I do not agree with you: these small things come together to create the image of a state. When you resignedly submit to a small amount of pressure, no one takes you into consideration any more. In international politics and diplomacy there are no minor issues or unimportant things. You need to think like a jurist. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made this case. Russia is a federation with great prospects but also with considerable problems. Such a state can only be controlled with the help of a strong presidential power, regardless of who at any given moment occupies that post in the Kremlin. If Russia becomes a parliamentary republic, it will disappear. That is my deep personal conviction. Even our closest neighbors who have tried to make very slight alterations to the configuration of power have encountered enormous difficulties, even though they have no federal system. Russia has always been built around a strong vertically-organised executive. These lands came together over centuries and it is impossible to administer them in any other way.


— Our country has been and will remain a presidential republic. There is no other option.

And where will the centre of power be? In the Kremlin, a president, in the White House, a national leader, there could be a split between them, and then…

— It would seem that you haven't been paying attention. There is no such thing as two, three, or five centres. The president controls Russia, and according to the Constitution there can be only one. Remember that I am speaking now about the highest office in the nation, not a specific person.

But in the previous eight years everything has been put together under a specific person whose name we know.

— And that wasn't the case in the eight years before that?

But that president slipped into the shadows 31 December 1999 and came out of them only for tennis tournaments. Today Vladimir Putin is not preparing to leave politics.

— That's exactly why I am telling you not to worry. Decisions will be taken according to the Constitution, and the bonds between the president and the prime minister will prove effective. Vladimir Vladimirovich and I fully understand that this union will be able to work only in an atmosphere of mutual trust and partnership.

Why did you refuse to take part in the election debate, Dmitry Anatolyevich? Zhirinovsky and Zhuganov immediately claimed that you were afraid of them.

— I respect my opponents but I don't overestimate them. What is so frightening about them? We all know very well who they are. Yes, debates in and of themselves are not a bad thing. The reasons I decided to refuse to participate are as follows. First, enough is as good as a feast. You have to look at the situation from the position of the authorities that have demonstrated their effectiveness and enjoy the confidence of the people. I think that everything we've done in Russia in the last eight years has benefited the country. Of course there are problems, but the positive achievements are obvious, and it would be stupid to argue against them. So I don't need to win a bunch of verbal battles with those who have never been at the helm of state machines, whose programmes are outdated and obviously have no chance of being implemented. The advantages of power, its superiority and its problems, are bound up with the fact that it deals with specific cases in ways that may or may not please the electorate but are nonetheless actually visible. In the final analysis the voter has to think of everything: the situation in the country, relations with the current leader, a lot of other factors, among which listening to public rhetoric is not the most important. In other words, the debates in this context are secondary. And there's another reason: the rules of the game. Engaging in a direct debate with opponents from the ranks of the long-term survivors, the government candidate unwittingly helps them out, providing his rivals with an additional plug.

So you do not want to share your popularity?

— Absolutely not. That does not make sense, since the objective of any effective government is maintaining stability and the continuation of the course that has been chosen. We don't want disturbances of any kind.

The political vector is more or less clear. And the same with the economy, it will continue to get better thanks to all the those ubiquitous state corporations we've created?

— Sometimes it is necessary to address global challenges such as the reform of housing and communal services or the development of nanotechnology. Otherwise, such a huge concentration of resources is meaningless. It leads to a dead end. It's better to establish a joint stock company with a controlling stake in the hands of the state, as we did in the case with Gazprom. Capitalisation is growing, stocks are circulating freely in the market, auditors are doing their work, and the mechanism for creating profits is clear and well understood. This last point is very important, because the companies must not become a feeding trough for the unclean hands of bureaucrats, dreaming of fishing in muddy waters. Alas, there is no shortage of craftsmen skilled at embezzling budgets. We need an eye out for this type of things. And a clear time frame, allowed for solving the problems. This is why we told the corporation in charge of housing and communal services that everything has to be done within five years. If they don't meet the deadlines, goodbye!

Sure, please turn over your position to someone who's equally skilled at budgetary funds?

— I know that you are talking about corruption. The fight against it remains one of our top priorities. Let me be clear about one thing: I am not a proponent of making examples of wrongdoers. The problem is serious and it must be addressed comprehensively. An attack à la Chapayev with sabres drawn won't solve anything. We need to create a system in which stealing from the state is dangerous and unprofitable. We need to think of the state as more than simply a source of income; we can't just put our snout in the trough and believe that we have made a success of our life. What an immoral position! Someone slaves away, studies, struggles all his life, creates a business and finally succeeds, and the other plunks himself down in a cosy armchair and wants everything given to him. It can't be like that. Leave the public sector and go to work in the private sector. If you don't understand that or are not prepared to live by the rules, you will be punished with all the severity of the law.

They say that the kickbacks in Russia compare to the whole budget of the country …

— It's obvious that the value of these bribes is astronomical. I repeat, we are going to do fight this.


— Conservative methods are the most effective. Surgery is necessary to bring some of our more presumptuous comrades to their senses. I can explain the necessary therapy: serve the state in order to deal with large-scale processes and acquire the experience of a top manager. Learn, make yourself a career, and then go and realise your ambitions in business. This is called capialization. In the west, often ministers and even prime ministers become consultants for private corporations and receive good money, and this is not considered corruption. Rather, it is very much valued.

But Schroeder was criticized for quite that.

— First, he had the courage to say that Russia needs to be taken into consideration, as long as Europe really depends on it and Russia maintains a reasonable and balanced policy in the energy market. Secondly, in the west they think it entirely acceptable for their outgoing leaders to take up places on European companies' boards of directors, but for some reason they get all upset when a former German chancellor agrees to work in a consortium with the participation of Russian capital. A classic double standard!

Let's give politics a rest and talk about something pleasant. When was the last time you took a real vacation, Dmitry Anatolyevich?

— Apart from the traditional visits to Sochi, probably a year and a half ago in the Far East. In August 2006 I went to the Pacific coast for the first time, and despite what I already said about not wanting to lie on a beach, I really enjoyed myself there. It was 27 degrees outside, 25 in the water. I looked at a Russian island and realised what immense tourist potential our country has and how little we take advantage of it… I was able to relax over the holidays this New Year. I even went to the movies to see the new version of «The Irony of Fate». I wasn't disappointed. It was quite a film. He wouldn’t outdo Ryazanov, but Bekmambetov is more capable than many contemporary directors.

Do you have time to watch television?

— I usually watch the news, more and more via the Internet. I go to, or or and look for subjects that I might have missed during the day. This is much more convenient than watching them on the box.

I see you like photography.

— It started in grade four when I went to the Young Pioneers Club on the Nevsky. I took a lot of pictures from the beginning, but the Smena-8 millimeter camera I had was pretty limited, and I lost my passion for photography. I got hooked again for real after moving to Moscow. I really like it.

— Are you planning an exhibition?

— It's just a hobby…

— Are you a sociable person, Dmitry Anatolyevich?

— You can not have many friends. I developed a close circle of friends at school and university and it hasn't expanded much in the last ten years. Maybe a dozen people altogether, not more.

— Will we know all their names soon?

— I'm not planning on getting my friends involved in politics. Everybody has his life and his choices.

Is it hard to get used to being constantly followed by bodyguards?

— It's like getting used to being a public figure more generally. I never sought it, never dreamed that the world would know anything about me. It's obvious that when I was working in the Presidential Executive Office it was a lot easier. The implications of the decisions I had to make were very serious, the responsibility was great, but nobody bothered me. Now I'm used to having everyone breathing down my neck, but at the start it irritated me.

— What about your family? I guess Ilya is no longer a child.

— I wouldn't want to say that…

— No, I mean he doesn't kick the ball around with the guys now the way you used to.

— I would rather say that he never has done that. We left Petersburg before Ilya was old enough to play outside. And here we lived in the quarters that my work provided, first in one place, then in another. Sometimes his grandfather takes him out, sometimes I do. In short, my son isn't really used to being outside, and I'll tell you honestly that that concerns me. Playing outside is a great way of being exposed to what awaits you. At least it was when I was a child.

By the way, on the subject of sport. The first President of Russia was a tennis player at heart, the second a lover of downhill skiing and judo. What about the third? What should we expect, in a word?

— Russia has problems insofar as swimming is concerned. As someone who is twice a day in a swimming lane, I want to point out that there is a disastrous shortage of swimming pools in this country.

So, we should start trying to master the crawl and the breaststroke?

— And play football. We'll have to do something with that! The people are so fond of this game, and we haven't had any great successes in the international arena for a hundred years. We are fed up with waiting! In any case, it's been a long time since I've had such an emotional rush as I did at Luzhniki after our win over the English.

— Especially over the English, so to speak, given the political implications!

— It would also be good to beat the Germans and the Italians. I'm not making any political allusions.

— It seems that Zenith is promised to be the winner of the Russian championship in the next four years.

— They are this year champions, this is it. And then we'll all see. It's a bad idea to insult other towns, including the capital.

— By the way, after eight years in Moscow do you have any favourite places?

— I am not going to be very original: the Kremlin. It's the heart of Russia. At one time, my office windows gave on

Ivanovsky Square. I would look out and spontaneously feel the significance of the place where I was working.

— It seems that you will be able to feel it many more times in the future, Dmitry Anatolyevich.

— You know, it is essential for me in any situation to remain a normal twenty-first-century human being. In the end, positions come and go…