It is here. It has been more than two months since the historic day when we elected our first African-American president. And now the time has come for the most glorified and needed leader in modern history to take the reigns of the most powerful nation on earth. This event has me excited, hopeful, and cautious all at the same time. I was ecstatic on election night and almost couldn't believe the result after eight years of presidential hell with Bush/Cheney (or should it be Cheney/Bush?). We have elected a leader who we can respect and look forward to. But I worry that the problems of our country and our world are so serious that we may be putting too much faith in Obama as a miracle leader. We should not forget that he is only human. Obama, (although confident), understands better than many of his supporters do, that he needs help from experienced, knowledgeable advisers.
Obama's election was so much more than just the election of a minority candidate in a major country. Three years ago, I said while watching the TV show "24" (which had a black U.S. president,) that it would be 10 years before we had a black president in reality. I've never been so glad to be wrong. Much of the success of the candidacy was Barack himself and the "Yes We Can" message. Not in a long time have we had a leader with the ability to move his audience to tears. His eloquence and charisma are sometimes hard to believe. As Obama spoke to accept his nomination, I watched celebrities like Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey choke up and journalists in tears. I find his genuineness and intelligence as his best attributes, but I too was moved by his convention speech. People of all races, ethnicity, and education levels came together. By being "different", Obama was able to transcend our differences and bring us together. We are all Americans regardless of our background. Just his unusual name provides added comfort for those of us with non-mainstream names. More importantly, Obama has been able to gather the support even a large portion of those who voted against him and differ from him philosophically.
Obama's election was a product of a well-run campaign team including David Plough and David Axelrod, one that took advantage of many marketing tactics, (which warms this marketer's heart). These included grassroots efforts, internet sites for small private donations, social networking, and a consistent message. But it was the man behind the message, a calm, intelligent leader who kept the ship sailing in the right direction. He never wavered and he stood up to attacks against him and his ideals. It's ironic that in a way, we owe Obama's inauguration to the failed policies of the Bush administration. Bush opened the door for a presidential candidate from the Democratic party. Even people who might have otherwise factored race into their vote decided that we really did need competence and change no matter what the color of the candidate.
His presidency has a broad impact beyond politics. It has instilled hope in countless minority individuals that our country is more open-minded than we may have thought. It has helped undo some of the damage from the xenophobic prejudice that arose after 9/11. And it means so much to our elder African Americans who withstood so much hatred and mistreatment generations after their ancestors were enslaved. Even if a significant minority of our people is not race neutral, at least we know that those who look past color and ethnicity are the majority. This should make us feel even more proud to be Americans. Despite all our problems and shortcomings, we have become a model nation in a way. Many other so-called progressive countries will not elect non-mainstream ethnic candidates for decades to come. We are fortunate that we have this diversity to begin with, and we are now stronger for being more accepting of it.
But an Obama presidency will not instantly solve all of our problems including wars, the environment, and the economy. There is much to be done and there are no easy answers. Obama is not a king or a dictator who can control every political move. Even if he could, he does not own the answer key to the test this nation is under. He will need the help of Congress but politics as usual will most likely rear its head. Additionally, Obama is not perfect. Given all the weight that has been placed on his shoulders, he may encounter some failures, ones that should not weaken our support for him. Given the circumstances, we will have to sacrifice in ways that Americans are not used to. For those of us alive today, like no other time in the history of our nation, we need to remember that we're all in the same boat. "Yes we can" will only ring true if we all truly try.
I wasn't alive when John F. Kennedy entered the Oval Office, but today will be a great day in my life, one that I will hopefully be able to tell my grandchildren about. I wish my father was around to see this as it was his political views and upbringing that have led me to develop the political beliefs I have, the ones that are so well represented by Obama. Nevertheless, I and millions of others will watch and gain hope and renewed strength to do our part to help our country become great again.