January 24, 2005
Washington DC, January 2037.
"I, Cyrus Darius Shirazi, do solemnly swear... "
One of the most remarkable events in the history of the American
presidency was unfolding.
"...that I will faithfully execute the office of President
of the United States."
With his right hand raised, and his left hand resting gently
on the Koran handed down to him from his great grandfather, and
now held out by his wife, Mariam Roxana, the 55-year-old Senator
of the National Independent Party of Citizens (NIPOC) was about
to walk into history, leaving in his wake the increasingly ineffective
and marginalized Democratic and Republican Parties whose decades
of bickering and gridlock had left the ordinary citizens outraged
"...and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect,
and defend the Constitution of the United States..."
Just four more words.
"... So help me God."
The first Iranian American and the first Moslem had just been
sworn in as the fiftieth President of the United States.
Only slightly less remarkable to the occasion was whom Shirazi
had picked as his running mate: Michael Luther King, a distant
relative of the immortal African American who, decades earlier,
had inspired the nation with his "I have a dream" speech
just a few blocks away on the Mall. Bearing a striking resemblance
to the slain civil rights leader, and with his Israeli-born wife
standing beside him, King was one of the closest eyewitnesses to
the astonishing historical moment unfolding before the world audience.
It all began in Orange County, California. On the night of May
6, 1981, Cyrus Darius Shirazi personally announced his arrival
to the world. It was said no baby had ever cried so loud in the
maternity ward of Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. That should have
been the first clue to the country that this baby was going places.
His parents, Hassan and Parvin Shirazi, part of the huge immigrant
wave of Iranians of the late seventies, named him after the two
famous Persian kings, not out of any imperious designs for their
son, but purely as a way to preserve, within their own souls, the
memories of their now distant homeland.
Cyrus excelled in every school and college activity he took part
in: always an A-student, captain of football teams, president of
his classes, president of debating clubs, etc. Some of his schoolmates
would tease him by calling him "Mr. President". Since
his father's corporate job had taken him and his family all
over the country and the world, by the time Cyrus graduated from
high school with a 4.0 average in Houston, Texas, he was fluent
in four languages: English, Persian, Arabic, and Spanish.
often say that language was his first love -- and his talent
for it was undeniable. He took special pride in the fact that
he was able to read and write Farsi, thanks to the patience and
of his parents who believed that culture and language were crucial
to their son's sense of identity. Cyrus considered himself
a Moslem though, like his parents, not a practicing one. He had
always felt at home whether he was attending mass in Boston,
a Bar Mitzvah in Brooklyn, or a funeral service in a mosque in
Cyrus was a junior history major at Yale when terrorists struck
the nation on September 11, 2001. He had spent the previous weekend
in New York City, including a visit to the south tower of the World
Trade Center. If the attacks grieved the nation, it turned Cyrus
inside out. After paying his respects to the murdered victims at
Ground Zero, he took long walks on the shores of Long Island, a
totally transformed person.
In the days that followed, he listened
to the outpouring of grief and sympathy from around the world,
including many in Iran who lit candles in the streets of Tehran.
Yet he knew that much more were required. No, this national tragedy
demanded something much more than just flowers and words of support
and sympathies. This was too big not to require a far greater
commitment and personal example.
He withdrew from Yale and joined the Marines. Within a year,
following his training at Camp Pendleton, he was bound for Iraq.
He had spent every spare minute brushing up on his Arabic, with
particular focus on the Iraqi dialect. His courage under fire at
Fallujah was there for all to see, but what distinguished him most
from many of his fellow marines was his negotiating skill in Arabic
with the local population who quickly trusted him and warmed up
to his sincere desire to help them through the historic transition
taking place in their liberated country. When he was shot in the
arm and the knee by a sniper, the local residents rushed to his
help just ahead of his fellow marines.
The surgeons on the hospital ship in the Persian Gulf fixed his
arm but could not save his leg. Decorated and honorably discharged
from the military, Cyrus returned to his parents' home in
Irvine, California, to convalesce. If he could no longer serve
the nation in uniform, he knew what was the next best thing. He
resumed and completed his history degree at Yale, went on to obtain
his law degree at UCLA, and took a position in the Public Defender's
office in Santa Ana.
Two years later, when a congresswoman's
seat unexpectedly became vacant, he ran on a pro-immigration
and pro-business platform and was elected to Congress by the largest
majority in the history of the country. Quite simply, voters
not resist his brilliant intellect, fluency in Spanish, demonstrated
courage on the battlefield, sincere concern for people, oratory
not heard of since John Kennedy, and a passionate belief in the
U.S. Constitution. And, well, his classic Persian good looks
and natural charm did not hurt, nor did his attractive family:
Mariam (a Christian Armenian), son, Kayvon, and daughters, Yas,
Manoosh, and Shirin.
Re-elected to Congress twice, Cyrus became more and more confident
of his own capabilities and originality. He recognized that the
old ways of two political parties were no longer working, nor meeting
the needs of citizens. With sheer energy and irrefutable conviction,
he persuaded some 100 congressmen and congresswomen, all of incredibly
diverse backgrounds and creeds, to join him in the new party, NIPOC,
whose motto was simple but not exactly original: e pluribus
unum -- towards a more Perfect Union! Most other politicians
seemed to have forgotten this most basic of all American creeds.
people had not.
If John Kennedy's idea of the New Frontier had given people
of his generation goose bumps, Shirazi's idea of a new party
and its deep rooted creed galvanized the average Joe and Jane to
believe once again that the political process could, indeed, make
a Perfect Union possible. And no one had to think very far about
who was the natural choice for a leader to take them there.
was soon elected by Californians to the US Senate where he served
with distinction on every committee on which he served. By the
time 2035 rolled around, he had gained the affection and respect
of the vast majority of NIPOC, not to mention the people of the
country as a whole. Moreover, the quality, charisma, and trustworthiness
of the man had not gone unnoticed by rest of the world.
In that year on his birthday, in the historic Ambassador's
Hotel in downtown Los Angeles where Bobby Kennedy had kept his
fateful rendezvous with Sirhan Sirhan, flanked by his family, parents,
and representatives of just about every ethnic group in the country,
Cyrus Darius Shirazi announced his candidacy for the presidency
of the United States of America.
"Congratulations", beamed the Chief Justice of the
United States, as the Marine band played "Hail to the Chief"
and the 21-gun salute ushered in the nation's fiftieth President.
Shirazi had decided long ago to write his own inaugural speech,
and to keep the text secret. He was where he was because of who
he was, and he wasn't about to let some ideologue speechwriter
tell him what to say to the very people who had elected him as
their president. This, of all his speeches, had to be pure him.
The temperature had warmed up by this time, thanks to the glorious
sunshine that was beaming down on Shirazi's audience. The
zillion snowflakes on the bare branches of the surrounding trees
were melting slowly, turning each snowflake into its own unique
prism, diffracting the sun's rays into the colors of the
The President began.
"My fellow Americans and fellow citizens of the world:
the guiding inspiration of my life has always been the miraculous
poems of Saadi -- how any man, born and raised in poverty,
could have written such rhyming poetry and lessons in everyday
life over a thousand years ago, is humbling beyond words. In
his honor, and in gratitude to him for helping me shape my own
and values, I would like to quote perhaps the best-known lines
of that revered son of Shiraz:
Bani aadam azaayeh yek deegarand
Keh dar aafarinesh zeh yek goharand
These lines will have a place of honor in the Oval office, as
they do already in the main hall of the United Nations in New York,
so that I can be reminded every day of what we should all be about.
If we get this right, we will rarely go wrong.
What amazing changes for the better we have witnessed over the
past thirty years or so. The United States of America is now but
one of eight united states which are governing the people of the
world in an era of unprecedented harmony and prosperity: the United
States of Latin America, the United States of Europe, the United
States of Africa, the United States of the Middle East, the United
States of the Russian Territories, the United States of Australasia,
and the United States of Asia. We are honored to have among us
today all seven presidents of these united states.
The colonies on the Moon and Mars are inhabited by people from
all eight united states. It was through the flawless cooperation
and ingenuity of the people of these states that we were able to
deploy one hundred rockets with nuclear warheads with which we
were able to destroy the massive asteroid that was heading to earth,
thus saving our beautiful planet from certain extinction.
Every disease known to man has been conquered by the astounding
progress in genetics, thanks to which we are also now within reach
of being able to stay at any age we want. This will have the most
profound, lasting impact on our world and its societies. We have
to use this biotechnology wisely and with the full understanding
of the consequences of eternal life.
The details of my administration's policies, goals, and
programs will shortly be uploaded onto our party's website.
Please go to www.nipoc.org for full details. But here is a quick
summary of what we plan to do."
For the next twenty minutes, President Shirazi listed and explained
"So, my fellow citizens of the world, let us build on
the good works of our predecessors. Much will be asked of all of
us. I believe we will rise to the occasion.
Finally, let the world know of my gratitude to this country for
the opportunities afforded to me and to my fellow Iranian-Americans.
We hope we have reciprocated to some small measure by gifting our
children, our energies, and our talents to the continuing greatness
of this land. God bless you, God bless America, and God bless the
united states of the world."