Category Archives: Politics

Inauguration

I’m still absorbing the impact of President Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday. It is hard for me to explain why it has made me so ecstatic. Of course it feels great to know that the candidate for whom I voted has become president, but I think there is more going on.

Many, many people have written and spoken about the historic significance of our having elected the first African-American president. They have said, and rightly so, that all Americans can now feel that race doesn’t have to be a barrier to achievement in this country, that we are collectively moving beyond our shameful past of discrimination. Watching the faces of many African-Americans who attended the inauguration, it was easy to see the joy people felt in seeing this color barrier fall. Many people interviewed said they never expected to see this in their lifetimes.

I guess, finally, what makes me so happy for us as a country is this: we are capable of surprising ourselves by being better than we thought we were. Millions upon millions of Americans have proved that the old hatreds, so much a part of our national history, can be put down.

There’s a hymn I really love, which opens like this, “A glorious day is dawning,/And o’er the waking earth/The heralds of the morning/Are springing into birth.”

What a glorious new morning. I am filled with hope.

Holiday

Monday holidays are a super invention. I have felt for a long time that 3-day weekends are the perfect length to rest up for the work week. You get an extra day’s sleep without an early alarm; you have time to run errands, relax, and do projects; and you know that the rest of the week is a short one.

Mainly, the long weekends helps me focus on having fun and getting things done. But, there is also the holiday itself. In the case of Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday, we get the chance to remember the life and contribution of a man who inspired other people to change our society.

This new year, I am looking all over for inspiration, especially the kind that pushes me closer to a life that makes a difference. For some reason 2009 already feels like a year in which we can all make a difference, starting with our new president and the belief that he and his team will be able to help turn some of our problems around.

Inspiration and hope go hand in hand for me. I’m feeling hopeful, and that has made me feel ready: ready to write, ready to help my friends, ready to make a difference. MLK made a difference. Barack Obama is ready to make a difference.

Why not us? Why not me?

Joy (Can’t get enough)

It’s eight days since the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. Usually I won’t blog on politics here, because I want to encourage a wide audience, but I am thrilled by the number of Republican observers who seem as awestruck as I by the historical significance of our finally looking past race in the election of a President.

It too me several months to recognize how inspiring Obama is as a leader, and when I did, I wondered that I didn’t see it all along. Maybe I have finally put down my skepticism of professional politicians and campaigns long enough to appreciate that hope has triumphed. I know that millions of people hoped for President Bush to win election, twice. What is different is that President-elect Obama somehow knew all along, for two years, that there were millions of Americans who wanted to believe in a brighter future, one in which large challenges can be tackled with large ideas.

Mostly, though, I have spent this past week gobbling up every scrap I could find about people who look at Obama and see the answer to their hopes: finally, an African-American; finally, a Hawaiian; finally, a man who grew up abroad; finally, a great orator; finally, a son of a single mother. He carries himself well, with dignity and sensitivity and intelligence.

And also with purpose. Much has been said about the high expectations for his presidency. We need so much right now. I am not troubled by the high expectations. One of President-elect Obama’s gifts is to inspire people to ask what they can do to help. It feels to me, at last, as if we are in this together. That is what I have wanted to believe.

I keep waking up happy.

Al Gore and Gandhi

The new Time Magazine has Al Gore on the cover under the headline “The Last Temptation of Al Gore.” Obviously the teaser headline focuses on whether or not Al Gore is the perfect Democratic candidate for president in 2008 if the current front runners stumble. Gore himself, though, shows much keener interest in the major challenges facing our society: first, global warming, and second, the crisis of irrationality in American politics, about which he has written his new book, “The Assault on Reason.” In that book, which Time excerpts, Gore writes that the rise of television in the last 50 years has fundamentally eroded our country’s ability to debate the most pressing issues we face.

His conclusion is startling and hopeful: we can take steps to resolve this issue, and the Internet may be a key to how we do it. He also quotes Gandhi’s concept of a “truth force.” The truth force posits that humans have an innate ability to recognize the most powerful truths.

The article is remarkable on many, many levels, starting with the way Gore has emerged from the personal pain of losing an election in which he won the popular vote, to become a spokesperson for attention to climate change, an Oscar-award winning filmmaker, a board member of Apple and a senior advisor to Google, as well as a best-selling author.

I have to confess that Gore didn’t inspire me at all when he ran for president in 2000, but that’s not really the point. What thrills me is his example of reacting to an enormous setback to re-invent himself as an even more interesting person than he would have been had he won.

In the Time article, Tipper Gore describes her husband as having complete freedom to do what he wants, in the way that he wants to do it. She makes it sound pretty grand.

Meanwhile, Gore believes resolutely in Gandhi’s notion of our collective ability to recognize the truth we need to learn. The entire article made an inspiring case for the future: a person can respond to disappointment and failure with growth and energy, and our society can recover from the apathy cultivated by over-indulgence in television.