Obama’s Inauguration

Read the full text of the speech here.

The cynics will say that Obama’s plans are too lofty and could never be accomplished. It may be so. He certainly has an upward battle ahead of him and it is dubious whether he’ll be successful against so many powerful interest groups. As first lady, Hillary Clinton worked hard for accessible health care for all but the outcry against any sort of reform of the currently lucrative health care system run by private insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies was too strong. Al Gore understood only too well that a green platform would not get him elected in the 2000 elections.  There’s not guarantee Obama could succeed where so many have failed before. But the issues he raises are important ones that need to be discussed and brought to the agenda. He has been very clear that it won’t be easy and that whatever change that may come will not happen overnight. Yet, there’s hope. His astounding popularity might actually allow him to pull it off. If there’s one thing that congressmen listen to in a democracy is public opinion. Canadian PM Harper backed off from re-visiting gay marriage and abortion laws in Canada when he sensed the public was not behind it. The American government keeps the arrival of the bodies of soldiers who died in Iraq away from the public eye to maintain some degree of support for the war. Heck, even the Nazi government responded to public opinion by moving away from its plan to eliminate the mentally ill and handicap when the German people complained. So there is a chance that Obama can convince the American people to support his ideas, which would lead congressmen in Washington to listen. Who knows? It’s all up in the air at this point. But what if Obama fails? What if he just turns out to be another mediocre president? It won’t matter. Suddenly, even here in Canada, young black men and women as well as children of other minority groups can stand a little taller and trully believe that dreams are possible. It was fascinating to see young children across the Canada fascinated by his example. How many politicians have had that reach recently? It’s quite remarkable and it should be interesting to see what he does with that in the next few years.

History in the making

It was an amazing feat. Americans turned out in record numbers and people of all kinds voted for Obama. States that had been red for a long time turned blue. I’m listening to the radio now and they were just interviewing some very conservative white farmers from a small town in the US that had always been strongly Republican. This is the demographic least friendly to Obama and yet they voted democrat. Some admitted that their families had voted Republican for generations and that they grandparents were probably turning in their graves. They admit Obama grew on them over time. They were particularly impressed with his calm maturity under pressure.

What I like about Obama is precisely that. Not only his calmness, which is a nice contrast to Bush’s volatile temper, but most importantly, I admire his capacity to bring so many different people together. The United States and the world need a leader like that. And although it sounds like empty rhetoric, he is very right to highlight the fact that a first generation, African-American man was able to be elected President of the United States is such a feat and such a message to a world marked by etnic conflict. I supported Hillary in the nomination process and wasn’t too keen on Obama. But like those American farmers, I grew to admire the man. I watched some of the debates and was very impressed by how prepared he was, how concrete his answeres were.

Obviously, being President of the United States is no easy feat and I have no illusions that Obama will be able to simply turn the US around overnight. That’s not going to happen. But he has good plans. He will get things started. And it is just good for the soul to replace a politics of fear with a politics of hope. For that alone, he would have had my vote.