Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Hope So

I’m still thinking about Obama’s inauguration speech. It’s been interesting to see that some lauded it as a great call-to-arms for the nation, while others saw it as a less-than-grand hopscotch around a wide variety of issues. The wonderful thing is—America being America—the reactions were all over the place.

The speech was printed in full in the Wall Street Journal and as I read through it I again got the same feelings of pride. Last week it didn’t seem so much a cliché to talk about how much you love America.

I continue to understand that so much of who were are and how we view life is tied up in where we are born. On the one hand, it’s sad that everyone does not have the freedoms we experience. But…and this is not my better angels showing…we’re America. If they…whoever “they” might be…don’t have our freedoms, then let them step up and make the changes in their society so they can democracy and see how it works for’em. I know that sounds simplistic, but that’s how we did it.

I was surprised at how emotional I got during the speech. I am not too proud to say that I walked into the kitchen, put my face in my hands and cried. I thought, “How unbelievably lucky I am to live in a country that can peacefully do what I’m seeing on television.”

People without a sense of history don’t understand how rare last Tuesday, and the rest of the week, really was. No one tried to assassinate people at the inauguration. No one tried to seize power forcibly. No one asked for anyone’s “papers” when they crossed state lines or walked onto the mall in D.C.

And here’s the irony that keeps hitting me. I was not going to vote for Obama. I was a McCain supporter all the way through….until Colin Powell endorsed Obama. It was one of those few moments in my life in which maturity got in the way of my basic judgment.

I came to believe that someone with General Powell’s experience had a lot better idea of what it takes, and who has the potential, to be the great president we need right now, than I did. So, I put my faith in Barack Obama because I had faith in Colin Powell.

When I realized why I was voting the way I did I came to have a better understanding of leadership, and of America. We are who we are because the people in our past had faith and stepped up. They believed in a few people and what they stood for. And it didn’t just happen in Washington, or Raleigh; it happened in small towns, in football fields, on the streets we grew up on, and, if we were lucky, in our homes.

Those people whom we respected, admired, and loved showed us the way. And the only way we can ever pay them back…is to act in a manner that shows others the way.

I think that that is why all this makes me so emotional. I have so much to be thankful for…so many gifts and opportunities I probably don’t deserve. At the same time, in order to come even remotely close to repaying that debt, the responsibility to step up is tremendous.

When I tried to talk about it the other day someone said, “Well, Mike, you’re a good American.”

I hope so.

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