Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hope, Change, and Reality

The 2008 presidential election is, thankfully, over. My candidate did not win. Although I'm disappointed, I'm far from despondent.

I may be more conservative than the average, middle-aged, white working woman. But first and foremost, I'm an American. It's always exciting to watch our political process play itself out, with all the attending drama and fanfare that accompanies election night.

But last night was especially thrilling, because with the election of Barack Obama, America has chosen its first president of African descent. There is no denying the triumphant significance of this moment in our history. America may screw up enormously, as we did with slavery--but, given enough time and opportunity, America also rights its wrongs in a lavish way.

As an American of Irish descent, I understand the struggle of the social underdog. Thus, I watched the joyful reactions of African-Americans with a fraternal sense of happiness and an awareness that the prophetic message of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered when I was a schoolgirl, was unfolding before my eyes.

Also as an American, I want our new president to succeed. He tells us that change has come. Soon, he will need to tell us what that means. The reality of the coming changes may be counter to what the 56+ million Americans who voted for John McCain want. The new president may be surprised at various times during the coming four years to find he is not the most popular man on the globe. But criticism comes with the job, as any of his predecessors will confirm. Obama's term will be no exception. His charisma can't protect him from that reality.

Obama needs to shoulder the tremendous burdens he has sought so aggressively to carry. He should not look back. There should be no pointing over his shoulder at the previous administration. Obama needs to own his own presidency. How effectively, and how gracefully, he can do so will define his success.