Although it may raise a few eyebrows among my Republican friends, I want Barack Obama to succeed as President of the United States. There, I said it.
There is a fine distinction, however, between Barack Obama succeeding as President, and the new President succeeding as Barack Obama. That is why I am mildly disappointed that Obama missed an opportunity to unite Americans with his Inaugural Address, focusing more of the message of “change” and less on the message of “hope,” .
For tens of millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions more around the globe, Barack Obama was the embodiment of those two simple words. Obama promised to change the course of a nation which had suffered blows to its global stature from terrorism and economic crisis. Obama offered the hope that people’s lives could improve from an act of the government.
For his supporters, “hope” and “change” were synonymous. But for the more than 200 million Americans who did not cast a ballot for Barack Obama, they were not. For some, “change” to Obama’s vision of America did not inspire hope. For others, cynicism in government meant that even the promise of change was not enough to make them hopeful.
And while I was no fan of John McCain, you can guess which camp I generally fell into.
As he made his first address to the nation as president of the United States, Obama had an opportunity to speak to his opponents and to the cynics. He had a chance to rally the nation together. He had a chance to give them hope. And he missed the opportunity.
Beginning by painting a gloomy picture of America, declaring, “every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms,” Obama’s First Inaugural relied too heavily on the assumption that his listeners were hoping for his kind of change.
And gloom, apparently surrounds us at every corner: “Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”
Where is a cave I can hide in?
It only got worse. Towards the end, when Obama declared, “this winter of our hardship,” whose only options are to embrace Barack Obama’s version of change or to let the American journey end.
Great speech – bad Inaugural Address.
Those who were not among the millions swept up in Obamamania were left out in the cold in this Inaugural. If you do not believe that change for change’s sake is a virtue, then you are a cynic. If you think that things aren’t that bad in America – or that they could be worse – then you were left out.
Obama’s message was clearly a repudiation of his predecessor and a messianic sermon from he who thinks he can lead us to the promised land. That’s too bad. Despite the growing storms, there is alot about America that should give people hope. Not everything in this country needs to be changed.
Although we wage war in the battleground of ballots every four years, we come together as a nation for a peaceful transfer of power in a way that is unprecedented in human history. It took Senator Dianne Feinstein to remind us of that.
Although our economy is suffering, it remains the largest in the world and – if currency bettors are correct – among the strongest.
Although we face crises, from failing financial institutions to failed intelligence, we respond quickly and take corrective action as we learn from our mistakes.
Although we may disagree on tactics, our nation’s belief that freedom is the great peacemaker sets us apart from previous world hegemons.
Ours is a great nation and acknowledging what’s right about America could give hope that the change we make can succeed. And that’s the opportunity that Barack Obama missed.
As former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk liked to say, “You gotta give them hope.” On Tuesday, Barack Obama offered lots of change, but for many Americans, very little hope.