The news media and social networks today are filled with stories of ordinary people filled with and inspired by the promise of tomorrow — a hope that change for this country will be arriving in the form of President Obama. I read these stories with a trepidation that exceeds simple worry. Obama, in many of these stories, is cast as our presidential knight in shining armor, a superhero, a wizard who can wave a magic wand and make our nation’s ills disappear overnight. But we are not living in a fairy tale. Our country faces the harsh realities of a faltering economy, two major theaters of war, and a government power establishment that is built to resist sudden structural change.
What we need more than this noble knight is a true leader who can implore and inspire us to make the needed changes in the details of our everyday lives, helping us to realize that the change we need starts with us. We must be the ones that raise our children to be responsible and compassionate citizens. We must be the ones to make ethical decisions in the workplace. We must be the ones who demand that our government be accountable to its citizens, rich and poor. And if you listen very closely, over the din of those who would appoint President Obama as our national savior, you will hear a man — Barack Hussein Obama — imploring us to do just this.
As I was watching some pre-inauguration coverage earlier today, I witnessed President Obama as he spoke and met people at the National Service Luncheon in Washington, DC. After speaking about the importance of volunteer service to the crowd that filled the room, he proceed to walk around, meeting each of the hundreds who had gathered there. What struck me was the look on the faces of the young people as he made his way, asking each one of them their name, engaging them and thanking them for their service today. To a person, each face had the look of “I am a part of this, I belong. Together, we can do this.”
From the point that Barack Obama rose to national prominence during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, his central theme has been togetherness. WE as a nation, WE as a group whose strength lies in its diversity of background and opinion, WE as a collective voice in the world, WE are in this together. There is no national savior, no knight perched on his trusty steed. There is simply a man whose insight, compassion and determination have inspired millions to believe that WE can make a difference in charting our nation’s future.
So, tomorrow, I will stand in unison with those millions and gladly welcome Barack Obama as our new president — a president who needs us as much as we need him.