Obama: A New Hope

I told myself I wouldn’t do this. I wanted to avoid regurgitating and subjecting you to everything that you and I have been hearing on the news for the last week. In fact, I had originally planned a rant about how the Federal Reserve is ruining the U.S. dollar (stay tuned for that thrilling commentary), but every time I started to write my mind came back to the subject I had been trying to avoid. So I give up.

Today, Tuesday Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States.

To be frank, I’m not entirely thrilled. I didn’t vote for him and I disagree with almost every single one of his proposed policies. However, that doesn’t preclude me from recognizing the incredible impact his election has had and will continue to have on democracy.

I remember watching the returns on election night. As the evening wore on, it became more and more apparent that Barack Obama was going to carry the election and I remember leaning back in my chair, bracing myself for the official announcement and fighting the nervous stomachache I had developed.

The announcement came. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t feel worried. Instead, much to my surprise, I smiled. I was overcome with the historic impact of the moment and my worry was replaced by pride.

Here before me was a vindication of everything great about our country. Even before the election I truly believed that we lived in a country where such a thing could and would happen one day, and that to me was enough of a confirmation of the unique ideals of America. In a sense, I didn’t need Barack Obama to authenticate for me that anything is possible in America if you work hard enough.

Yet there was no denying the emotion of actually seeing this most fundamental belief become reality. All of a sudden I had a new appreciation for what this election meant to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people all around the world.

Even though I always believed it, to so many this represented the first time that the “American Dream” had become reality. Everything that America stood for and said about freedom and democracy across the world finally made sense.

I’ll never forget reading in the paper on the day after the election about a man living in Tehran. “Until now,” he said, “I never believed in American democracy.”

Think about how many other people’s faith in democracy has been renewed. People in Iran, China, North Korea, Afghanistan, or Zimbabwe. This election was one that transcended politics. Truly, there is new hope for freedom in the world.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you don’t agree with President Obama’s ideas or politics (many of which I’m sure I’ll be criticizing in later columns). But I do hope that you can take a step back today, if only for a minute, and think about the historic significance of this election and what it means to the world. We owe it to ourselves to at least appreciate that.

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