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This morning, the government is upon Barack Obama’s shoulders.
There is a great chance that even the naysayers and the predictors of doom may have underestimated the task of fixing this broken nation.
Health care, education, the economy, housing and foreign policy are all in disarray. And justice? Only a few days ago the current United States Supreme Court – which has chiseled away at civil liberties in recent years – struck a blow against Fourth Amendment protections in a decision decried even by some conservatives.
Barack Obama, our first African-American president, rose to the presidency by taking the high road, using the politics of hope, reason and unity rather than the rhetoric of divisiveness. We have no reason to doubt that these values will continue to define his leadership.
Many Evanstonians, here, in Washington and elsewhere, feel a keen sense of pride because we feel it was here he got his start as a United States Senator (never mind that he calls Hyde Park his home and his base).
Some will remember his October 2004 address at Chute Middle School. As reported in the Nov. 3, 2004, issue of the RoundTable, he said he felt “a common thread of decency” among the people in Illinois as he campaigned for the Senate seat.
Recalling the struggles for civil rights, he urged Evanstonians to exercise their right to vote. “The sacrifices asked of us are so modest compared to those of previous generations,” he said.
Mr. Obama’s message to us has always been one of hope – that we can and will have a better future. In his Chute appearance, Mr. Obama was already speaking of “instill[ing] people with a sense of purpose, a sense of hope.” His affirmation of hope is not the affirmation of one group but of the collective ideals of this country.
President Obama said the inauguration was a moment to “reaffirm our enduring spirit, choose our better history” and recall that “all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
He said, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America. …
“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world – duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”
On the pulse of that new morning, few could have watched yesterday’s inauguration festivities without emotion, as inspiration from the past heightened the anticipation of a new day.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all” (Abraham Lincoln); “A president may sense and proclaim that new spirit, but only a people can provide it” (Jimmy Carter); “We meet on democracy’s front porch, a good place to talk as neighbors and friends” (George H.W. Bush); “We observe today, not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as well as change” (John F. Kennedy).
In this, the most awe-inspiring transfer of power in the world, we recall the words of folksinger Phil Ochs about this country: “Her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom; glory shall rest on us all.”