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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

HOPING AGAINST HOPE

It’s finally here, the Bush era ends today and Obama will be sworn in as president at noon. I’ve been watching some of the images from Washington, and it’s hard not to be moved. People from all over are crowding onto the Mall to celebrate the inauguration. Many are young, some are old, lots of races are represented out there. Reporters are talking to people who have traveled halfway around the world to see this moment.

It’s a stunning scene. These are not good times. Our economy is teetering on the brink of a depression, we’re stuck in two long and costly wars, and if feels like we’ve lost our way as a country. Yet in the mall and in gatherings all around the world, there are smiles. Not just smiles, really, but excitement. And the very notion that there’s anything to be excited about is almost revolutionary.

So today, despite all the troubles we face in the nation and in the world, is a day to celebrate. A day to celebrate the peaceful transition of power (hey, we’ve handed over power 42 times without firing a shot, that seems worthy of a party). It’s also a day to celebrate our potential as a country and celebrate that we’re trying to get closer to that ideal. And, of course, it’s a day to celebrate the inauguration of a black president.

People around the world and at home thought we could never do it. They said America would never accept a black president. But here we are. It’s happening. And new polls say Obama is entering office with the highest approval ratings of any incoming president since they started keeping track of these things. That means Obama has won the approval of many people who didn’t vote for him.

The term “hope” almost became a cliché during the presidential campaign. But hope is exactly what I’m feeling right now. And just hours before he takes office, here’s hoping Obama takes good care of our country and inspires the rest of us to do the same.

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