Wow, what a day! Watching Barack Obama take the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States was breathtaking. I have to admit, any time a new president takes office there is an air of excitement (that is, when there haven’t been law suits and hanging chads and other such clouds of gloom hanging over the grand event). It is an exciting time for our country as other countries look on and wonder how this democratic experiment has lasted so long when so many others have failed.
Pundits have claimed his speech was not his best. I totally disagree. If anything, this was his finest hour as he laid out the truth of the situation we’re in now (wars, violent rhetoric against our government, economic peril that seems to be taking the rest of the world down with us), but also put it in historical perspective. We have been in tough situations before and have come out of it, sometimes even better for it! We are a country shaped by determination and, though some might disagree, compassion for our neighbors. We look around and see the devastation of bad decisions. We may wallow in self-pity and helplessness, but it does not last. We always rise to the occasion eventually, tired of the muck and determined to dig our way out, step by step.
Whether we were fighting with each other or against a common enemy, the “American way”, if there is such a thing, is to snap out of our depression and get down to business. President Obama (I like the sound of that!) was clear that it is not ideology that will win the day (larger or smaller government, religious or secular perspectives, left or right, liberal or conservative). What will win the day is the reality of reachable prosperity for all people—not outrageous wealth, but reasonable and reachable prosperity. And I might add, prosperity not built on the backs of poor or oppressive people in far off lands. A prosperous nation is a nation that can take care of its poor and sick with affordable health care, equal opportunity education, and a legal and financial system that maintains a healthy disparity between rich and poor (and not letting the rich get obscenely richer while the poor become desperately poorer).
Today is a new day in our country and in our world. There is hope on faces around the world, especially the oppressed. I was amazed to hear people in Iran, who were not afraid to state that the United States has been an enemy of Iran (interesting twist on our own rhetoric against Iran), to speak of the possibility of peace through the voice and presence of our President! I was amazed how much people around the world were not only interested in our politics, but felt keenly tied to it in some way. It is a testament to our country and to a truth we hold and live every day: all people are born with certain inalienable rights.
I do not believe Barack Obama is a savior. I do not believe he is going to fix everything. But, I do believe he has the unique ability to inspire others to work toward common goals in order to make not only this country great, but to create an ever more peaceful, prosperous and humane world. Yes, there will still be those who despise our way of life and those who want to do us harm. But the more the U.S. can aim for equality for all people, not just those within our borders legally and not just for the wealthy and powerful, but for all people, the closer I believe we will be to God’s true hope and intent for all humanity. And, as President Obama expressed, we are not alone in our struggle.